The acupuncture needles are not considered as "experimental medical devices" even by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after reviewing the existing body of knowledge on it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has one of the most stringent criteria for approval of any drug or medical device. The standard and quality of acupuncture needles is also regulated like other devices such as surgical scalpels and hypodermic syringes, under good manufacturing practices.
Standards for acupuncture needles
- Several types of acupuncture needles are used; they may be small, thin, stainless steel or thick, long needles made of silver and gold. Several different types of needles are available but only six types of needles are most commonly used by the modern acupuncturist.
- The needles are flexible and very thin. The thickness, length, width of shaft, and shape of head of the needle can vary. The thickness of a needle is usually about three times the thickness of a human hair. The length can range from 1 cm to 15 cm, and the diameter can range from 0.27 mm to O.46 mm. Most acupuncturist use needles of 1 and 1.5 inch in length.
- As the needles penetrate the skin, hygiene is considered important. Most modern acupuncturists use disposable needles. These needles are pre-sterilized. They are meant for single use and should be thrown away after each client. The needles have guide tubes on one end so that the acupuncturist is not injured while using them.
- The needles used for acupuncture are different from the hypodermic needles. They have a solid shaft unlike the hypodermic needles which have a hollow shaft to inject medicines.
- The acupuncture needles have a doweled end, unlike the hypodermic needles which have a cutting end. Hence they cause far less tissue damage or bruising when inserted as compared to hypodermic needles.
Most needles used for acupuncture are filiform or thread-like. Besides the filiform acupuncture needles, other specialized types of needles are also available:
- Three-edged needle: This needle is thick, round-handled and has a triangular shaft. It is similar to a lance and has a sharp tip. It is used for bloodletting. In bloodletting the acupuncturist allows the blood to flow from your body in a controlled technique to treat certain diseases such as hemochromatosis and polycythemia.
- Intradermal needles: These needles are thin and short and are often used to treat chronic pain or addiction. They are often inserted in the ears shallowly and left in place covered in waterproof tape.
- Press needles: These needles are very small which are pressed into the body and secured in place with a small sterilized surgical patch. They are used if long-term stimulation is desired, and if required they may be kept there for a week or more.
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