How long are acupuncture needles left in?
In the thousands of years since its inception in ancient China, acupuncture has developed many nuances and subtleties in its practice. In this article we look at an important part of the delivery of acupuncture treatments, namely the amount of time a needle spends within the body.
Why are needles left in?
Needles are an essential tool to all acupuncturists, and are the means by which, according to traditional Chinese medicine, healthy Qi flow is restored to diseased parts of the body. Interruptions in the flow of Qi, an essential life energy responsible for good health, through its specialist vessels known as meridians is thought to be responsible for disease in the Chinese tradition. By applying needles to specific points in the body, known as acupuncture points, an acupuncturist can relieve obstructions and restore Qi flow and good health.
In order to adequately stimulate an acupuncture point to an extent which is therapeutically useful, acupuncturists often have to place a needle within the specified point for a certain length of time. This is an important aspect of acupuncture which varies according to the practitioner, the patient, and the condition being treated.
How long are needles left in an acupoint for?
The length of time a needle is applied to a particular acupoint for will vary tremendously depending on the person being treated, their threshold for the treatment, their condition, and the training and experience of the acupuncturist his or herself.
Some acupuncture needle will be applied for a few seconds, and a good example of this will be needling to relieve muscle tension. In many cases needles applied to this end are inserted only long enough to stimulate relaxation, and this can be achieved in seconds. On the other hand, needles applied to the other bodies can be left in for as long as half an hour, and there have even been reports in China of practitioners applying needles to the ear for as long as three days.
Ultimately you will have to rely on the experience and expertise of a trained acupuncturist to ensure that needles are left in for a therapeutically appropriate amount of time. In many cases, a practitioner may need to tailor the treatment to how you respond to needles and how long they spend in your skin.
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