Acupuncture press needle

Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that can trace its roots back to ancient China. In over 2000 years of practice, the art of acupuncture has been refined and developed in a number of ways, not the least of which has been an expansion in the tools available to a practicing acupuncturist. In this article we look at one of the many implements an acupuncturist has at his or her disposal, the press needle.

The press needle in acupuncture

Needles are very much at the heart of the theories and principles of acupuncture. Since its inception, about 400 unique acupuncture points (or acupoints), specific parts of the body into which needles are placed, have been mapped. Each point corresponds to a particular part of the body, and represents part of a system that the ancient Chinese believed to be integral to good health. This system of specialised vessels, also known as meridians, is thought to carry a life sustaining energy called Qi to the various tissues and organs of the body. A disruption in the flow of Qi is thought to cause disease and discomfort, and acupuncture was originally devised as a method of restoring Qi flow to alleviate illness.

While this philosophy is still widespread, many acupuncturists now adopt a more modern interpretation of the classic system. It has been hypothesised that the mechanism by which acupuncture can restore health is through the stimulation of nerves and muscles.

Regardless of how it works, the practice of acupuncture makes use of needles to stimulate recovery. Different needles are used to different ends, and the press needle is an invaluable tool used in treatments where a needle is left to stimulate an acupoint for a prolonged period of time. As such, it is designed to remain within the skin safely, without the risk of accidentally going in too deeply or coming out.

Different acupuncture treatments involve needle insertion for different lengths of time, and the length of insertion ultimately depends on the patient’s physiology, the practitioner’s training and experience, the condition in question, and the part of the body being treated. In some cases, particularly treatments of the ear, needles need to be placed in their acupoint for as long as three days. Press needles are specifically designed to this end, and are made up of two essential components that help keep the needle in place without risk of injury to the patient.

Press needles are usually made of sterilised stainless steel, and possess a small loop at their base which prevents them from slipping to deeply into a patient’s skin. In most cases press needles are only about 3mm long as aren’t inserted any deeper into the skin (while some needles, like the ones used to treat sciatica, need to be as long as 3 inches to reach their target acupoints). These needles will also usually possess a surgical adhesive patch which can be used to help hold the needle in place. This surgical patch is also usually antiseptic, minimising the risk of infection.

Are press needles safe?

As with all acupunctural treatments, safety is an important concern when using press needles. You can expect your acupuncturist to only use sterilised needles that are either designed for disposable, single uses, or for repeated sterilisations. Your acupuncturist should also clean the site of needling with an antiseptic wipe before and after treatment.

Acupuncture is generally believed to be a safe practice with few side effects. However it is important that you ensure that your acupuncturist is suitably qualified, as the vast majority of serious injuries caused by acupuncture have been at the hands of inexperienced practitioners. In well-trained and experienced hands, the press-needle is a perfectly safe and extremely useful tool.

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