Author: Staff Writer
Acupuncture, a procedure that invites healing through stimulation of anatomical locations on or in the skin, evolved out of Chinese medicine over 2500 years ago. There are a variety of approaches to diagnosis and treatment in American acupuncture that incorporates medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The most studied mechanism of stimulation of acupuncture points employs penetration of the skin by thin needles, which are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.
It is believed that the earliest acupuncture needles were sharp pieces of bone or flint called bian stones. Early acupuncture needles were made from iron, copper, bronze, and even silver or gold. During the Iron and Bronze Ages, metal acupuncture needles began to surface. However, it is not unusual for contemporary acupuncturists to employ gold acupuncture needles to treat certain ailments.
The needles employed by acupuncturists today are stainless steel, solid (unlike standard needles used for drawing blood which are hollow) and vary in size or width gauge. Acupuncture needles consist of a stainless steel shaft and a handle made out of copper or steel. There are nine types of needles used in acupuncture; however, only six are commonly used.
Needles are inserted at points from 15 to 90 degrees in relation to the skinÌs surface. Once the needle has been inserted there are a variety of techniques that aid in the stimulation and sensation. The technique used by the acupuncturist will depend on the ailment that is being treated. Acupuncture is essentially pain-less, some people may experience a slight pinch as the needle is inserted. Once inserted, the needles remain in place for approximately 20-30 minutes.
On March 29, 1996, the Food and Drug Administration bestowed the Class 2 status of "medical tools" to acupuncture needles. Acupuncture needles were previously listed under Class 3, or "experimental devices." The change of classification means that needles used for acupuncture will be subject to FDA approval to ensure quality control and "single use only" labeling. Most significant, the ruling could make acupuncture treatments eligible for coverage under insurance policies which exclude alternative medicine.
The FDA ruling indicates that acupuncture is a safe and effective medical treatment. Because modern acupuncture needles are disposable and used only once, there is no risk of transmitting infections from one person to another.
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