Three-edged acupuncture needle

The three edged needle may sound daunting, but you should rest assured that this tool, like all other acupuncture needles, is specially designed to be safe and effective when administered to the skin. In this article we look at the use of the three-edged needle in acupuncture.

Why used a three-edged needle?

Needles used in acupuncture aim to stimulate recovery, and while the mechanism by which the practice is thought to achieve this is subject to debate, the technique itself is used by acupuncturists across the world.

A standard filiform needle (the stainless steel needles used by most acupuncturists) is designed to quickly penetrate the skin and stimulate particular acupoints. A well placed and carefully applied needle can be virtually painless, and only in a handful of cases will it draw any blood at all.

A three-edged needle on the other hand is actually engineered to draw a few drops of blood when applied. Techniques which make use of this aspect of the three-edged needle are known as superficial blood-letting therapies, and it is important to point out that these methods do not draw any more than a tiny amount of blood.

The methods applied using a three-edged needle include:

  • Spot pricking – where a small amount of blood is drawn out of an acupoint to stimulate healing and recovery. This practice involves first carefully sterilising the skin to be treated (all needles are of course sterile as well) before the needle is inserted at a right angle to a depth of about 3 or 5mm. Once a few drops of blood have been drawn out, the puncture wound is pressed with a sterile cotton ball. Because of how small the puncture is, it only takes a couple of minutes for the bleeding to stop.
  • Scatter pricking – involves a series of spot pricks around the target area, usually in the shape of the circle. The spot pricking technique is used.
  • Vein pricking – is used to draw blood from a particular vein. A tourniquet is used to restrict blood flow to the target area, following this, a target vein is punctured to draw out a very small amount of blood. Again a sterile cotton bud or ball is used to staunch the wound until bleeding stop.
  • Fibral tissue pricking – This is a slightly different approach that aims to stimulate fibril tissue underlying the skin. Similar sterilisation steps are taken before the needle is applied at an angle to the skin. Needles are usually applied a bit more deeply to achieve fibral tissue pricking.

These methods are usually used to remedy pain caused by a variety of different conditions. Scientific evidence in support of the effectiveness of these methods is still somewhat lacking, however many practitioners of acupuncture advocate the use of three-edged needle pricking techniques.

Is the three-edged needle safe?

As described above, a number of precautionary sterilisation measures are undertaken if a three-edged needle is being used. In fact these measures should be taken regardless of the type of needle used as acupuncture needling is in essence an invasive technique that carries with it an inherent risk of infection.

All three-edged needle used will be sterile one-use needles, or equivalents designed for repeat sterilisations.

Very small amounts of blood are drawn out through this procedure, and as such there is no serious medical risk in their application. It can be a concern, however, to people suffering from bleeding disorders and similar conditions which leave them susceptible to more bleeding than usual from small wounds.

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