I am. I remember being poked by a hypodermic needle as a child when the doctor gave me my first year vaccines and they hurt! Based on my experience with those needles I work extra hard so that my needles don’t feel the same. Hypodermic needles range from very small – .5 mm or .02 inch – to large – 4.0 mm or .15 inch. According to a few nurses I have spoken to, blood draw needles are usually 1.0 mm or less and you might not think that it’s too big, but when that needle punctures your skin and your nerve endings send a message to your brain to fight or flight, you notice!
The thickest acupuncture needle is .35 mm or .013 inch and the thinnest of .12 mm or .0047 inch, basically less than the diameter of a human hair – which is 1mm. Most of the needles I use are .18mm to .25mm. So size does matter. In addition, the sharp tip of my acupuncture needles makes for painless insertion into the skin. The quality of workmanship matters as well. The sharper the tip, the smoother the metal and the easier the needle will push past the first layer of skin and bypass the nerve endings.
Another factor to painless treatment is technique. I do my best to make a patient’s treatment as pleasant as possible. Very seldom is my intention to induce pain during my treatments. Some practitioners use plastic guide tubes to desensitize the acupuncture point as the needle is inserted. Other acupuncturists free hand, which is insertion of the needle without the use of a plastic tube, and use another technique to desensitize the acupuncture point like pressing of a thumbnail into the skin or stretching of the skin between the index and third finger. Each practitioner has his or her own way of doing things to keep the patient comfortable.
I can confidently tell you that my main goal during acupuncture treatments is to help patients to relax and have faith in the medicine. In order for that to happen, the treatment must be safe – which is what I strive to achieve with each needle insertion.