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What kind of needles are used in acupuncture?

Apart from filiform needles, there are a number of specialised needle types that may be used for specific conditions. Here are some types of specialised needle.

Three-edged needle
This is a thick needle with a round handle and a triangular body and a very sharp tip. It looks like a lance. The three-edged needle is used to puncture specific acupuncture points with the aim of removing a few drops of blood.

Plum blossom needle
This is also called a seven star needle and is actually a group of seven filiform needles arranged together in the shape of a flower and attached like a hammer head to a long handle. The handle is often flexible. Some types are disposable — others have a detachable head for sterilising. The needling is done by tapping the needles on the skin lightly and swiftly. The plum blossom needle can be tapped along a channel or at specific points.

Intradermal needles
These are very thin, very short needles that are used on specific points, often the ears (auricular acupuncture). Inserted to a very shallow depth in the skin (1-3 mm), these needles are left in place and covered with waterproof tape. They are often used to treat chronic pain and addictions.

Press needles
These are used in treatments where the needles need to be left in for extended periods of time (usually one to 3 days) because prolonged stimulation of a point is needed. They are very small needles (1-3 mm long) that are ‘pressed’ onto the point and are held in place with a small, sterile surgical adhesive patch. At the base of the needle, the metal forms a spiral loop, stopping the needle from being pushed too far into the body. They are often used for acupuncture of the external ear. If you are treated with indwelling needles, care should be taken so that dirt does not collect under or around the tape.