Are acupuncture needles sterile?

acupuncture needles

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.

What can it help

Acupuncture is used mainly to relieve discomfort associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, including:

  • Chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting
  • Dental pain
  • Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines
  • Labor pain
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis

Once the needles used in acupuncture are inserted, they will be left in place for between 5-30 minutes, depending on the type of treatment you require.

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 package itself is filled with ethylene oxide gas, which kills everything in the package, rendering the needles absolutely sterile.