Choosing Acupuncture Needles and the Quest to be Effective and Tread Lightly at the Same Time – by Ann Cecil-Sterman

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For many years I used the same brand of needles. They were superbly engineered. Made of shiny stainless steel and completely uncoated, they performed their job superbly. They would engage Qi effortlessly and allowed my intention as practitioner to be enacted, just as a fisherman (fisherperson?!) moves the bait to hook his catch. Once on the needle, the Qi could be raised, lowered, moved in any way, and life at the handle was grand.

But one day I received a fresh shipment of these needles and things changed.  I embarked on a treatment for an injury where qi (wei qi) had become trapped in the shoulder, preventing movement. I opened a new box, set up the treatment and went to work. Upon inserting the needle into a tight point, I was surprised that I didn’t feel anything in my hand, no De Qi, no grip. The needle seemed to enter like a hot skewer into butter. I asked the patient what he felt and he said he felt nothing at all. Curious, I tried another point. Nothing again. So I opened another box and then another and they were all the same. I reached for a needle of a different length from the previous shipment and finally was able to engage the Qi and complete a successful treatment.

Later, holding my now precious back stock of needles and comparing them to those of the new shipment, I saw that the color of the metal was slightly different and the shine on the needle was different. Someone at the company had decided that their needles should be “painless” and they had introduced a coating. Ah, I thought, the quest to tread lightly. While admirable, this has spurred a very unfortunate trend in acupuncture needles. An acupuncture needle must not be coated. Silicon and other coatings insulate the needle from Qi. (So do plastic handles.) It’s like going to the tropics to enjoy swimming in the tranquil waters wearing a wetsuit, or tasting the most delicate of rare mushrooms after you’ve taken a swig of super spiced chai latte. The Qi simply can’t reach you. You can’t reach the Qi and you certainly cannot guide the Qi or coax it out of its impeded state.

To be kind, to tread lightly in acupuncture does not require using coated needles, it requires a skillful insertion.

1. Press firmly on your tube. This stretches the skin and minimizes the intrusion of the needle.
2. With the tube pressed firmly, squeeze the needle in gently. Never flick or tap a needle. Flicking and tapping activates a state of defense. Your patient will push the treatment off their body and since the immune system is activated, they are likely to feel tired after the treatment.

The insertion movement must be slow. With this technique, the patient will not feel assaulted and will relax. The treatment has a far greater chance of success. The patient will know and feel that you cared about them because the insertion was humane and gentle. Flicking or tapping the needle gives you access to only Wei Qi. Wei Qi is the Qi of the immune system.  See my site for more, including a video of this insertion method.

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4 thoughts on “Choosing Acupuncture Needles and the Quest to be Effective and Tread Lightly at the Same Time – by Ann Cecil-Sterman”

  1. Avatar photo

    Thanks for writing Debra. I’m so glad it was useful.
    I don’t recommend specific brands because the manufacturers are constantly changing the metals and the quality. But just quietly, at the moment I’m using Carbo CT5’s. I been using them for six months now after using one particular brand for so many years. But all you’re looking for is a sterile, uncoated needle with a loop at the top! (Hopefully with minimal packaging, that’s why I’m buying clusters of 5..)
    Thanks for visiting.
    I hope your practice is going wonderfully.
    Very warmly,

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