The most important instrument of any acupuncturist is of course the acupuncture needle. Not all needles are the same. There is a multitude of different qualities of acupuncture needles as well as product features that are important and that the patient is actually not aware of.
When choosing a needle, one should consider the age and constitution of the patient as well as the place of the puncture, whereby the stitching technique of the acupuncture user also plays a very decisive role. Acupuncture needles are available in different thicknesses and lengths as well as in different price ranges. In the beginning of traditional Chinese medicine, one still punctured with relatively thick stone needles and cut with stone splinters. Later, needles were made of bamboo, bone and, in the Bronze Age, metals. Today, mainly sterile disposable needles are used.
Types of needles
The following types of needles can be roughly classified:
- Acupuncture needles and needle bodies treated with silicone oil or with silicone-coated or plastic-coated needle bodies, and needles with or without plastic handle
- Uncoated acupuncture needles and
- (Ear-) permanent needles
Acupuncture needles with plastic handles, whose needle shaft may be additionally coated with plastic, silicone or silicone oil are sometimes very controversial in their use and represent a double-edged sword. The coatings are primarily intended to make the needles easier to prick. However, this is not necessarily always the case.
Of course, this depends on the stitching technique and the experience of the therapist. When using such needles, it cannot be completely excluded that tiny particles of the coating or additionally applied plastic, silicone or similar coatings may come loose in the patient’s body when the needle is pulled out or manipulated. In very rare cases this can result in granulomas (inflammatory nodules) at the point of insertion.
All in all, these needles are completely safe! Classical Chinese acupuncture cannot be used with silicone or with silicone oil or plastic-coated needles and plastic handles. According to the Chinese doctrine, the energetic connection between the doctor or therapist and the patient plays an important role in the treatment.
For the therapist “isolated” acupuncture needles with plastic handles etc. are not used there because no energetic “exchange” is guaranteed. Also, not all facets of the original Chinese acupuncture can be performed without further ado. The plastic handles would melt away during moxibustion (heating). The very proven electro-stimulation (electro-acupuncture) is also not possible with coated acupuncture needles or plastic handles to the same extent as it can be carried out with uncoated steel needles, since these also have a particularly conductive silver spiral handle.
Alternatively, there are highly polished, uncoated acupuncture needles, where there is no risk that the mentioned substances can be released as residues in the body. They can also be used to apply all facets of traditional Chinese acupuncture. International standard are sterile disposable needles made of steel with a length of 3cm (without handle) and a thickness of 0.3 mm. A metal spiral handle is advantageous for additional stimulation with electricity.