A lot of people are afraid of needles, and hence afraid of acupuncture. The needles are actually much smaller than the syringes one is familiar with from a doctor’s office or hospital. Rather than being hollow so that medication can be introduced into the body, acupuncture needles are solid or filiform.
The FDA recognizes acupuncture needles. Virtually all acupuncturists use sterile, disposable needles. This means each needle is used only once and only one patient.
Acupuncture needles range in size from a 30 gauge needle to a 42 gauge needle and the larger the number on the gauge, the smaller the needle. Syringes that diabetics get to inject insulin are usually 26 or 28 gauge needles, so acupuncture needles are far smaller.
The size of needle an acupuncturist uses depends upon their style of needling. Some prefer a larger needle and use a stronger stimulation. Others prefer a smaller needle that is very fine. Both styles have their advocates and each practitioner tends to gravitate to a style that suits them.
Just like the width, the length of the acupuncture needle may vary. Sometimes needles a half an inch long are used. Other times, acupuncturists use much longer needles. Most distributors carry needles up to 6 inches in length, though needles this long are rarely used .
According to one source, acupuncture needles are not sharply pointed like a syringe either. They have a slightly more rounded tip, designed to slide through the muscle fiber, rather than tearing it. In this way they cause less pain as they are inserted.