Acupuncture Needles: Hair-Thin Instruments of Healing
Although many fear hospital needles, those used in acupuncture are much less scary. Check out Groupon’s examination of acupuncture needles to ease any lingering aichmophobia.
Acupuncture generally doesn’t draw blood—a testament to the skill of professional acupuncturists but also to the special needles they use. Unlike the needles commonly feared by hospital-goers, acupuncture needles are thin enough to slip through the skin without breaking any blood vessels. Although most are roughly the thickness of a hair or a pixie’s wand, they come in several varieties for different treatment types: thinner needles provide less stimulation and are often used for children or the elderly; shorter needles treat the head and face; and longer needles (up to 5 inches long) target the thighs and other fleshy areas to reach points along the body’s theoretical energy pathways, known as meridians.
Filiform needles are the most common, comprising a stainless-steel wire sharpened at one end and wrapped at the other to form a handle. With a quick, skilled hand—or the aid of an insertion tube—practitioners insert the tip just beneath the skin’s surface, and although a small prickle may be felt, once the needles are in, the patient shouldn’t feel them at all. Today, most acupuncturists use disposable needles due to their safety and simplicity, but some may use reusable steel or even gold needles, sterilizing them between use in the same way doctors or guitarists do their instruments.
The practice of acupuncture stretches back more than 5,000 years, well before stainless steel was a household commodity. Archaeologists have dug up traces of the implements early healers used to get energy, or chi, flowing properly through the body: sharpened stones were a popular choice, as were delicate needles of bone.
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