When many people think of getting acupuncture, they think of the needles first. After all, that’s what makes acupuncture unique, right?* Chiropractors crack you and acupuncturists stick you. And when people think of needles, the most common picture they get is getting a shot with a hypodermic needle.

Acupuncture needles are very different from hypodermic needles, though, and getting acupuncture differs greatly from getting a shot.

First of all, the needles are VERY thin — the ones i normally use are about as thin as an eyelash. You could fit a bunch of them inside an ordinary hypodermic needle.

Second of all, they come packaged with these nifty insertion tubes, which are pressed on the surface of the skin and really help in modifying the sensation of the needling. Most of the time, people feel the pressure from my fingers and the tube and can’t even tell when the needle is inserted.

Third, the needles are not hollow, and contain no medicine. The medicine is INSIDE YOU — that’s right, the acupuncture helps release neurotransmitters, hormonal secretions, natural chemical substances inside your body which help to normalize your body’s function.

I like to tell my patients that the acupuncture needle is like a key which unlocks your body’s own inner pharmacy. Rather than putting in medicine from the outside, it helps to stimulate healing from the INSIDE.

Lastly, the needles are left in place for a while while you relax — and the vast majority of people do relax during acupuncture. Some people have even told me they sleep better in my clinic than they do at home! I usually leave them in for about 45 minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Of course, there are a couple of important things that acupuncture needles and hypodermic needles do have in common: both are pre-sterilized and both are used only once and then disposed of.

So, if the thought of needles is what is keeping you from trying acupuncture, keep these things in mind. And if you do decide to try acupuncture, you might just find it to be one of the most peaceful and relaxing experiences you’ve had in a while.

*I think there are a number of other things that make acupuncture unique, but i’ll cover that in other posts.