Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Evolution of Acupuncture Needles

   The earliest acupuncture implements were sharp pieces of bone or flint in the shape of arrowheads called Bian stones. Their use was limited because of their size and shape and they were used to scratch or prick acupuncture points. Later, sharp pieces of pottery were used for this purpose. As time went on, the Chinese refined this process eventually using needles to stimulate acupuncture points.
Early acupuncture needles were made from bamboo and bone and as they were rather thick, their insertion was painful. In spite of there being no knowledge of sterilization before the 19th century, it is surprising to note that infection rarely occurred with acupuncture. This is because acupuncture stimulates the immune system enhancing the body's protective mechanisms.

   With the advent of the Iron Age and the Bronze Age the next type of needles to be developed were metal needles. As the art of metallurgy progressed, different types of needles were made. Early needles were made from iron, copper, bronze, silver and gold. At the time when the "Nei Jing" was written, there were nine different types of acupuncture needles in use. These were similar to present day needles. Very thin, fine needles were used for routine treatment. Arrowhead needles were used to prick the points. Blunt and round needles were used for acupressure. Scalpel like needles were used for cutting open boils and abscesses. Larger and heavier needles were available for insertion into joints and when the acupuncture points lay deep below the skin, longer needles were used.
   Small thumbtacks shaped needles were used for insertion at ear acupuncture points when prolonged stimulation was required. Three-sided needles were used to bleed the patient in cases of coma and high fever. The drawing of a few drops of blood from certain acupuncture points can bring down high fever, stop convulsions and restore consciousness in a matter of minutes without any other treatment. Finally there were the plum blossom needles also called the seven star needles which was used to tap the skin over acupuncture points. This was mainly used to treat skin diseases, children, old people and patients who were afraid of needles.

   These needles were in widespread use for thousands of years until the early years of the 20th century, when the invention of stainless steel revolutionized the art of
Some acupuncturists claim that needles made from silver or gold have special therapeutic properties. Needles made from sliver and gold are expensive and so are often resharpened, straightened and reused. Unfortunately, the process of sharpening needles is laborious and time consuming and it is rarely possible to get as sharp a point on these needles as on a stainless steel needle. In my experience needles made from stainless steel are as effective in therapy as needles made from any other material.
Needles made from two metals act as a thermocouple, and generate a small electric current. So the handles of some acupuncture needles are made from metals like copper, silver and gold with the needle itself being made from stainless steel. Needle handles made with copper and silver get oxidized during use and storage, which reduces their electrical conductivity making them unsuitable for electrical stimulation.

Source: http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/The_History_of_Acupuncture_in_China/1819

Aren't you glad to have a thin needle under your skin instead of a piece of "arrow" now?

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