Acupuncture Needles 101

Without needles, acupuncture wouldn’t really exist. But I find that a lot of people fear acupuncture precisely because of its requisite needles.

Here’s everything you need to know about acupuncture needles – and why they actually aren’t that scary.

What They Are

Acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel, so they’re flexible and don’t rust or break. They come in individual tubes and are 100 percent sterile. And they’re disposable! Reusable needles are not commonly used in the United States— they require an autoclave for sterilization, which is time-consuming and expensive. Also, using disposable needles virtually eliminates any risk of infection.

Acupuncture Needle Size

This is the one a lot of people get revved up about because they envision huge hypodermic needles, which have an average diameter of 0.01 inches. Acupuncture needles have an average diameter of 0.00325 inches. That’s like a strand of hair.

They also come in three sizes of length: 0.5, 1, and 1.5-inch needles. I use a 0.5-inch for ears, 1-inch for the face, hands and feet, and 1.5 for the leg and larger muscle groups.

Needles are measured in gauges, and the higher the gauge, the smaller the diameter. Hypodermic needles are typically between 25-27 gauges, and most acupuncture needles range between 30-40. The largest I use is a 32 gauge, and that’s for treating pain. Larger needles help break up stagnation and muscle spasms, but otherwise, thinner needles are the way to go.

In treating typical fertility conditions, I use thinner needles because I’m trying to influence energy – which doesn’t require big needles – instead of breaking up pain.


I use a blowgun. JUST KIDDING! I’ve had about a decade of experience in gentle and painless acupuncture needling. Back in school, I began learning the process in the second of 11 trimesters. It’s really important. My first patients in school were a bar of Ivory soap and an orange, and then I learned on myself before moving on to peer students.

It’s not a random pincushion process: Each acupuncture point has a specific corresponding angle and depth for the needle.

Do acupuncture needles hurt?

Short answer: No. At least, they shouldn’t. If an acupuncture needle hurts going in, it’s not being done right. There might be a minuscule pinch, but that feeling doesn’t last longer than a fraction of a second.

That doesn’t mean you won’t feel sensations. Often people experience a dull achy feeling, sort of like when you’re getting a massage at a key pressure point. Even though it’s not the most popular sensation, it’s a good thing called the Arrival of Qi. Energy is flowing!

So there you have it, a quick crash on acupuncture needles. Contact me with any questions or concerns—I’m always happy to talk.

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