It is important to understand that Acupuncture (and
Traditional Chinese Medicine in general) is not "folk medicine".
It is a highly developed, systematic, recorded, researched, and peer
form of medicine with several disciplines that continues to evolve.
It has a massive amount of real-world data to justify the application
of techniques based on several thousand years of human trials.
Acupuncture points and the methods used to treat them can vary widely
depending upon the diagnosis as well as the school of acupuncture in
which one is trained. Since the traditions of acupuncture have come
to the West through teachers from many nations, styles and techniques
of treatment vary accordingly.
Treatment methods may include very shallow or deeper
insertion of needles or, in some cases, just holding the needle so
the surface of the skin without actual insertion. The needles may
or may not be held, twisted, moved in and out, flicked with the
fingernail, or retained at varying depths for moments or minutes
at a time depending
upon what effect is desired. Needles may be left in place for just
a few seconds or up to 40 minutes or even more.
Needles vary in thickness, but most acupuncturists use between 30
(medium) and 40 (extremely fine) gauge needles. Most are made of stainless
steel but may also be made of gold, silver, copper, or zinc. They may
be between 1/4 inch and 5 or 6 inches long depending upon the body
area being needled and the effect being sought. There are also tiny
needles (1 mm) called interdermal needles which may be inserted, taped
in place, and left in the body at strategic spots for up to one week,
usually to aid in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.