Several years ago the British Acupuncture Council carried out a survey into the public's perception of acupuncture. They discovered that 21% of people thought that an acupuncturist's needle was a similar size to the hollow tube needles used to give injections. The reality of the matter is that acupuncture needles are tiny (from 0.12mm in diameter), barely thicker than a human hair! (1)
The picture below may help to illustrate this:
Fear of needles does appear to be the biggest reason why more people have not tried acupuncture. Anxiety UK reports that this fear may affect up to 10% of the population (2). The good news, however, is that for the vast majority of people who do take the plunge, the result is quite surprising. Acupuncture is rarely described as painful and traumatic, but more often than not: relaxing, pleasant and sometimes even wonderful. This is because, without the addition of any medication, or hard work on the person's behalf, there will be a positive change during treatment, simply by the insertion of a very small and very fine needle. The decision on where to place this needle / needles is based on an in-depth and personalised diagnostic process that dates back thousands of years. So it's a world apart from giving blood or having a flu jab!
The Art of Needling Needling is an art! Any practitioner who is a member of the British Acupuncture Council has spent a great deal of their three plus year of training, perfecting this art. All traditionally trained practitioners are likely to be very proud of their ability, inflicting pain will be the very last thing they want to do! In my clinic the majority of my patients are surprised by how painless and even, dare I say, 'pleasant' the needling is. Those that do report discomfort, usually say the anticipation is so much worse.
The Ling Shu is one of the main ancient texts on acupuncture, the translation of which is still in use today. It dates back to 1155 (3), and addresses the ceremony behind the practice of needling.
"Prior to needling, a practitioner should retire to a quiet place and commune with his spirits with doors and windows shut. The doctor's spirits should not be scattered, his mind must be focused, and his essence undivided. Undistracted by human sounds, he must marshal his essence, concentrate his mind and direct his will entirely towards needling"
Ling Shu, chapter 9, translated by Yang and Chance, 1994 (4)
Today many practitioners exercise this care and precision through practices such as qi gong, tai chi and yoga.
So if you are considering acupuncture, but fear of needles is holding you back; go on, give it a try! You will probably be pleasantly surprised.
1: British Acupuncture Council, Acupuncture Awareness Week http://www.introducingacupuncture.co.uk/why-choose-acupuncture.html
2 Anxiety UK, Injection / Needle Phobic: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/about-anxiety/anxiety-disorder-and-stress/injection-needle-phobia
4: Hick, A; Hicks, J and Mole, P, Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture pg 261
Jane practices Traditional Acupuncture at clinics across Bristol and can be contacted on 07515 128248