The primary, though not the only, technique of acupuncture treatment is the insertion of needles at meridian points. The earliest "needles" were fish bones, bamboo splinters, and pointed stones, which gave way to true needles made of such metals as iron and copper. At present, most needles are made of silver, gold, or stainless steel. Their shapes and sizes vary somewhat from country to country, and sometimes even from region to region, but are more or less standardized.
Some of the ancient Chinese masters of acupuncture attributed particular qualities to the metal or color of the needle: silver (white) was thought to aid in dispersing excess energy and gold (yellow) in stimulating or tonifying depleted energy.
The acupuncturist considers type of metal, shape, diameter, and length of needle, as well as the treatment procedure to be used, in making his selection of needles.
But regardless of the type of needle chosen, he is faced with one basic choice in treatment: to stimulate or to disperse the energy of the meridian. His procedures will vary, and with them his choice of needles, but his purpose will always be stimulation or dispersal - or sometimes both.
Following are the general rules of energy control in acupuncture with the common type of needle.
Warm the needle (in former times the acupuncturist did this by holding the needle in his mouth for several minutes, but clearly this is no longer sanctioned).
Massage the point to be treated before inserting the needle.
Introduce the needle slowly, in stages, and withdraw it slowly.
Puncture the points of the meridian in the same order as the direction of the flow of energy in the meridian.
Introduce the needle as the patient exhales and withdraw it as he inhales.
Keep the needle in place for three to ten minutes.
Use large needles.
Do not massage the point to be treated.
Insert the needle relatively deeply.
Introduce and withdraw the needle rapidly.
Puncture the meridian points in the opposite order of the direction of the flow of energy in the meridian.
Puncture as the patient inhales and withdraw as he exhales.
Leave the needle in place for only a few seconds.
Make the point bleed very slightly after withdrawing the needle (micro-bleeding).
Japanese needles are very delicate and are slid through a metal tube when inserted, to prevent their bending. The Chinese technique is to insert the needles without use of the guide tube.
No pain is felt in the insertion of even the largest acupuncture needles in the hands of a skilled practitioner. At most, a slight discomfort may occasionally be felt when the needle is inserted-but there should never be actual pain. Acupuncture students commonly practice extensively on themselves during their years of study in order to perfect their technique.