Are needles reused?
Are needles Reused?
Of all the different kinds of acupuncture needles: in USA, acupuncture needles are never reused.
In the past, certain companies sold solid GOLD and SILVER needles, used for patients with allergies to stainless steel. (Yes, it’s a thing). But as the Clean Needle Technique (CNT) gained popularity these were no longer sold. Today, they use gold and silver plated needles for these patients. Some companies even use titanium plating. After the needles are used they are disposed in a sharps container: those red boxes you see mounted on the wall in your doctor’s office.
Clean Needle Technique training includes education on never reusing needles, disposing of them properly, diseases spread through improper technique and many other topics. CNT training is required before an acupuncture student in medical school can even pick up a needle. It involves a detailed exam, which has many failures, followed by a practical exam. Other professions who circumvent the getting the acupuncture license do not get CNT certification, which is a requirement for an acupuncture license.
Risk of infection from acupuncture needles, when performed by a LICENSED practitioner, is almost unheard of. This is because acupuncture needles are packaged for single use and are sterile. As you can see in the photograph the acupuncture needles are stored inside small packages within small tubes, called guide tubes.
The most interesting component of the packaging is the guide tube. The guide tube keeps the package straight, but also serves as a tool to push the needle through the skin. The needles are so soft and so tiny that getting them into the skin without a guide tube can serve difficult.
What is reused in a Acupuncture Clinic?
Sometimes, the guide tube is reused. Certain brands of needles pack 5 to 10 needles in one package with one guide tube. But the guide tube is never reused between patients. Once the package is opened, unused needles get thrown in the red little sharps container.
Myofascial decompression tools (cups for cupping) are reused. These tools amount to glass or plastic cups that lift the skin to help move blood under the skin for certain pain conditions. These cups are reused in almost all clinics. They do not get sterilized but instead get washed and sanitized.
Myofascial release tools (gua sha scrapers) are reused. These tools, made from various materials from plastic to metal, rub against the skin to help release adhesions of fascial tissue under the skin. Like the cups, they get sterilized, not sanitized.
Moxibustion boxes are reused. These boxes hold the burning mugwort leaves safely against the skin. They are sterilized between patients in all clinics.