When we decided to create an Earth Friendly acupuncture needle, it was not out of a financial need, or a need for recognition, it was truly because as practitioners of Acu/TCM we were disheartened at the end of each clinic day with the amount of waste we generated. On top of that, scientists are putting out alarming statistics on the state of our planetary disharmony.
Our call to action was one to create a brand that had a low carbon footprint, and one that as many practitioners using acupuncture techniques could embrace.
As a result, we produce both coated and non-coated Acufast needles to suit the different needs of practitioners. Many practitioners want a relatively, sensation-free, insertion needle for their patients. This is by far the largest percentage of practitioners and thus we offer coated needles. Other types of practitioners, sports, and veterinarian practitioners, want more fascial pull on the needle, to activate the sinew channels. Also, they find that the needles stay put when muscles are twitching during electrostimulation sessions. The demand in this group is less and therefore we offer a limited number of sizes for the uncoated group.
This issue of whether the coating has a negative effect on the body is one that has arisen from time to time. As an acupuncturist, I actually have been quite involved since the early 90’s trying to uncover the story of why some needles entered into the body easily, and others created more sensation. Back then, no manufacturer revealed anything about how their needles were made. Through many inquiries, I finally discovered that some manufacturers coat their needles with a variety of substances. The Seirin brand needle, which became famous for being painless, was the first brand I discovered to have a silicone coating on the first 1/3 of the needle. Then, through further digging, I found that some manufacturers in China were coating the needle with non-medical grade silicone products, while others were even using machine oil! It was a wild, wild west of various standards of quality control, cost-cutting, and competition. As a concerned practitioner and company co-owner (Eastern Currents), when we discovered this, we made sure we verified the needle manufacturing methods and made it clear to our customers if a needle was coated or not. We were the first needle supplier in Canada to do so.
During all this research, I discovered that all hypodermic needles are coated with medical-grade silicone. As a result, as acupuncture became more accepted and popular, manufacturers of acupuncture needles started applying a coating to needles to reduce discomfort. There was one paper that I read in the ’90s that looked into the possibility of small amounts of silicone residue remaining in tissues after needle withdrawal. The article proposed that there may be some trace residue remaining and, in some patients, it may have negative effects. However, that article was over 25 years ago, and I have not seen any further follow-up on this. I have concluded that as no further reported data on this matter has emerged, even after billions of acupuncture needle insertions over the decades, that there is no serious concern about acupuncture needle coating.
However, having said that, some patients are allergic to silicone coating, or for that matter, different types of metal. These patients will respond with, itching, redness, and possible hives around the needle insertion areas. There are different types of stainless steel, different types of medical grade coating and different methods used to coat the needle (some leaving more coating on the shaft, others leaving only a microlayer on the shaft). All these factors can cause patients who are sensitive to have minor or more significant reactions. Mid-priced, to high-priced needles, are sure to use high-quality metals and coating materials. Therefore, practitioners should avoid bottom-of-the-barrel-priced needles as these needles will use inferior raw materials and are bound to create more reactions in sensitive patients.
Since I have researched this very extensively over the years, we made sure that our Acufast brand uses high-quality surgical steel and medical-grade lubricant. We also made sure that we offer both types of needles (coated and uncoated), to be able to treat all types of patients with a full choice of treatment styles.
Check with our distributors to see if they carry both versions of Acufast. If you want non-coated needles and don’t see them as an option, let the distributor know you are interested. If they get enough requests, they will start to carry the non-coated version too!
Thanks for being part of our change movement.
John Stan, DrTCM