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Medical Acupuncture (cont.)

Acupuncture Needles

It is believed that the earliest acupuncture instruments were sharp pieces of bone or flint called Bian stones. During the Iron and Bronze ages, metal acupuncture needles began to be developed. Early needles were made from iron, copper, bronze, and even silver and gold.

Modern acupuncture needles are made out of stainless steel and come in various lengths and gauges of width. These acupuncture needles consist of a stainless steel shaft, with a handle made out of copper or steel. Some Japanese needles have a color-coded plastic handle. Unlike standard needles used for intramuscular injections, or for drawing blood, acupuncture needles are solid, not hollow, and have a finely tapered point, as opposed to a beveled cutting-edge point. In fact, acupuncture needles are so thin that an acupuncture needle can actually fit within the hollow of a standard blood-drawing needle.

Acupuncture is essentially painless. Although some people may experience a slight pinch as the needle is inserted, many feel nothing at all. Once inserted, the needles remain in place for approximately 20-30 minutes. Because modern acupuncture needles are disposable and used only once, there is no risk of transmitting infections from one person to another.

Side Effects

Acupuncture has relatively few, if any, side effects. The most common side effect from acupuncture is a feeling of deep relaxation and an increased sense of well-being. As with any puncture, a slight discoloration at the acupuncture site may occasionally occur. This is temporary and not dangerous. One published report documents the safety of acupuncture even when performed on people receiving the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin).

Although adverse effects can occur if acupuncture is improperly performed, only 10 cases of internal injuries from acupuncture have been reported in the United States from 1965-1997.

Medical Insurance

Although some insurance carriers have begun to reimburse for medical acupuncture, most do not. As of December 2007, Medicare still did not cover medical acupuncture. In some states, medical acupuncture is covered by workers' compensation and no-fault automobile insurance. Because of the variability in each policy, contact your own insurance carrier to determine if the company provides coverage for medical acupuncture.

Medical Acupuncture Pictures

The traditional symbol of Yin and Yang, symbolizing the dual, polar nature of the universe.
The traditional symbol of Yin and Yang, symbolizing the dual, polar nature of the universe. Click to view a larger image.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, Qi flows throughout the body along channels or meridians.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, Qi flows throughout the body along channels or meridians. Click to view a larger image.
An acupuncture needle placed in the 4th Large Intestine meridian point (LI4).
An acupuncture needle placed in the 4th Large Intestine meridian point (LI4). Click to view a larger image.
Modern acupuncture needles come in various lengths and gauges of width.
Modern acupuncture needles come in various lengths and gauges of width.
An acupuncture needle is shown next to a standard syringe and needle used for injecting medication. Compare the hollow needle with its beveled, cutting-edge tip, with the solid shaft of the acupuncture needle, which has a finely tapered tip.
An acupuncture needle is shown next to a standard syringe and needle used for injecting medication. Compare the hollow needle with its beveled, cutting-edge tip, with the solid shaft of the acupuncture needle, which has a finely tapered tip.
Acupuncture needles are so thin that they can fit within the lumen of a standard blood-drawing needle.
Acupuncture needles are so thin that they can fit within the lumen of a standard blood-drawing needle. Click to view a larger image.

Medically reviewed by a Board Certified Family Practice Physician

REFERENCES:

Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA. Nov 11 1998;280(18):[Medline].
Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ, Laine C. Complementary and alternative medicine--an Annals series. Ann Intern Med. Aug 7 2001;135(3):[Medline].
Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C. Unconventional Medicine in the United States - Prevalence, Costs, and Patterns of Use. NEJM. 1993;328.
Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Van Rompay MI. Perceptions about complementary therapies relative to conventional therapies among adults who use both: results from a national survey. Ann Intern Med. Sep 4 2001;135(5):[Medline].
Fugh-Berman A. Alternative Medicine- What Works. American Health Consultants. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1997.
Helms JH. Acupuncture Energetics. Berkeley, Calif: Theme Medical Publishers; 2007.
Sciammarella J. Acupuncture in patients anticoagulated with warfarin. Medical Acupuncture. 2002;13(2).
Sohn RC. Tao and T'ai Chi Kung. Rochester, Vt: Destiny Books; 1989.
Stux G, Pomeranz B. Basics of Acupuncture. 5th ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2003.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "About NCCAM." 29 Dec. 2007. http://nccam.nih.gov/.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/13/2014

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