Clinical practice of acupuncture
Most modern acupuncturists use disposable stainless steel needles of fine diameter (0.007 to 0.020 in (0.18 to 0.51 mm)). The size and type of needle used, and the depth of insertion, depend on the acupuncture style being practiced.
Most modern acupuncturists use disposable stainless steel needles of fine diameter (0.007 to 0.020 in (0.18 to 0.51 mm)), sterilized with ethylene oxide or by autoclave. These needles are far smaller in diameter (and therefore less painful) than hypodermic injection needles since they do not have to be hollow for purposes of injection. The upper third of these needles is wound with a thicker wire (typically bronze), or covered in plastic, to stiffen the needle and provide a handle for the acupuncturist to grasp while inserting. The size and type of needle used, and the depth of insertion, depend on the acupuncture style being practiced.
Warming an acupuncture point, typically by moxibustion (the burning of a combination of herbs, primarily mugwort), is a different treatment than acupuncture itself and is often, but not exclusively, used as a supplemental treatment. The Chinese term zhēn jǐu (針灸), commonly used to refer to acupuncture, comes from zhen meaning "needle", and jiu meaning "moxibustion". Moxibustion is used to varying degrees among current schools of oriental medicine. For example, one well-known technique is to insert the needle at the desired acupuncture point, attach dried moxa to the external end of an acupuncture needle, and then ignite it. The moxa will then smolder for several minutes (depending on the amount adhered to the needle) and conduct heat through the needle to the tissue surrounding the needle in the patient's body. Another common technique is to hold a large glowing stick of moxa over the needles. Moxa is also sometimes burned at the skin surface, usually by applying an ointment to the skin to protect from burns, though burning of the skin is general practice in China.
An example of acupuncture treatment
In Western medicine, vascular headaches (the kind that are accompanied by throbbing veins in the temples) are typically treated with analgesics such as aspirin and/or by the use of agents such as niacin that dilate the affected blood vessels in the scalp, but in acupuncture a common treatment for such headaches is to stimulate the sensitive points that are located roughly in the centers of the webs between the thumbs and the palms of the patient's hands, the hé gǔ points. These points are described by acupuncture theory as "targeting the face and head" and are considered to be the most important points when treating disorders affecting the face and head. The patient reclines, and the points on each hand are first sterilized with alcohol, and then thin, disposable needles are inserted to a depth of approximately 3–5 mm until a characteristic "twinge" is felt by the patient, often accompanied by a slight twitching of the area between the thumb and hand.
In the clinical practice of acupuncturists, patients frequently report one or more of certain kinds of sensation that are associated with this treatment:
• Extreme sensitivity to pain at the points in the webs of the thumbs.
• In bad headaches, a feeling of nausea that persists for roughly the same period as the stimulation being administered to the webs of the thumbs.
• Simultaneous relief of the headache.
The evidence base for the use of acupuncture on animals is weak, and requires more rigorous research to test the small amount of existing data that is promising but unconvincing.
Disclaimer:All the material presented in this article is for informational purposes only and should not take the place of a consultation from a trained medical professional.