Acupuncture is a safe method when carried out by trained therapists. The patient's consent is required as for every medical treatment.
Single-use, specialized extra fine needles are used (with a diameter only fractions of a millimeter), usually made from stainless surgical steel. The needles do not inject any form of pharmaceutical substance.
In most cases the introduction of the needle by an experienced practitioner is done with no significant disturbance to the patient. Indeed during a session, most patients experience a considerable state of relaxation and many fall asleep.
During treatment, the doctor chooses several points according to the symptoms and the needs of the patient and applies a few needles (usually 4-20) under the skin (subcutaneously) or in the mass of the muscle, utilizing a painless technique. The needles are left in place to act for 15-30 minutes. They are then removed and the patient returns immediately to his/her activities.
The minimum frequency for a treatment of acupuncture is once a week, while the maximum is once every other day. The ideal session rate depends on the nature of the illness and how chronic it is, as well as the patients’ potential for triggering the homeostatic equilibrium of their body.
The treatment is repeated for 6-12 sessions depending on the pathology and the reaction of the body. Sometimes the patient notices that the symptoms he was suffering from are more tolerable shortly after the session, or on the next day, and feels better. At other times, the patient reports clinical improvement after the 4th or 5th session. In most cases the symptoms gradually improve (a cumulative effect) while the maximum therapeutic result of acupuncture can be expected up to one month after the end of the treatment cycle.
Acupuncture consists of different techniques. Other than the introduction of needles into the body (classic body acupuncture), there is auricular acupuncture (introduction of needles in the ear) and cranium acupuncture (Yamamoto). In addition, acupuncture can be implemented through the application of heat (moxibustion), inducing a weak electric current in some of the needles (electroacupuncture), focusing a laser beam on acupuncture points (laser acupuncture), placing semi-permanent sticker needles that remain in place for a long period of time (staple puncture), while the least invasive method is the application of pressure with the fingers on the points of interest (acupressure).