Is There any Risk of Infection or Injury?
Today, there is almost no possibility of infection. All modern acupuncture needles are for single use only. Modern acupuncture needles are made of surgical stainless steel so they cannot rust. The needles are packaged in a nitrogen gas environment so that no microorganisms or bacteria can live on them. Your acupuncturist will swab each point to be needled with isopropyl alcohol or other cleansing liquid that ensures that nothing on your skin gets a free ride into your body, again reducing any risk of infection.
Occasional small bruises may form at an insertion site. This happens when small capillaries are broken by the needle. This cannot be avoided because capillaries are not detectable through touch. In my experience, I see a bruise form in approximately one treatment out of twenty.
The primary risk associated with acupuncture is called a pneumothorax. This is an injury to the pleural membrane that protects your lungs and separates them from your chest wall. This is a very uncommon injury because all licensed acupuncturists study anatomy and are trained to specifically avoid this from ever happening.
How Deep do the Needles Go?
This is the most common question that I receive from my patients. My answer is always “just deep enough”. Some of the nerve-muscle junctions or acupuncture points are just under the skin and some are deeper, the average being about 1/4 inch below the skin. An example of a deep point would occur in a largely muscled football player who has sciatica. Sciatica occurs when a deep muscle in the hip joint presses on a nerve. In order to resolve this very painful condition, the acupuncture needle has to trigger that deep muscle to relax. In a larger person, this would require a six-inch-long needle. In each person, depending on their medical condition and the size and shape of their body, each needle needs to go just deep enough.
What About the Statistics?
Some medical research statistics suggest that acupuncture is not significantly effective and some research suggests that acupuncture is the most beneficial and least harmful treatment for many conditions. I would like to speak to the research that “proves” acupuncture is not an effective treatment. In modern research, we use a standard called a double-blind study. With respect to research on acupuncture, this means that the patient and the practitioner are not allowed to have ever had acupuncture before or know anything about how it actually works.
The practitioner is given locations of acupuncture points that may or may not be actual points, they insert the needles and see what happens. There is no communication between the practitioner and the patient.
There are two great flaws to this kind of research. First, the charts that show people where acupuncture points are a general guideline. The charts are meant to guide the practitioner to begin a physical investigation to find that point on that particular person. So the idea of real and false acupuncture points based on a rough drawing of the body is kind of irrelevant. Second, acupuncture requires constant communication between the patient and the practitioner.
Both must agree that each needle is in the right place based on physical sensations and actual changes in nerve and muscle function.
Real acupuncture cannot be tested by a double-blind study because it requires that two people subjectively agree that the treatment is having a tangible effect on the patient and their condition.
If you are interested in the biomedical research and physiological pathways that make acupuncture so effective, please TAP BELOW for the Article,
How Acupuncture Relieves Chronic Pain.
This article includes links to three videos that I made to explore and explain all of the details. ENJOY!