Despite all the information available, very few know of the use of the plastic tube in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Do you? The plastic tube is usually a hard-disposable tube used to insert needles. The top two reasons why people don’t try acupuncture is because they are scared of needles and they don’t know how it can help their specific problem. Now it is unfair that this occurs, because getting a shot in your spinal cord, is a heck of a lot different than getting acupuncture. I always ask skeptics do they realize that people feel relaxed after a session? If so how painful could acupuncture really be compared to other injectable therapies?
The plastic guide tube is standard in most needling packages and is used to help the needle get under the skin quickly. The tube is removed from the needles by pulling it upward and the acupuncturist can take the needle down to the right depth. Don’t worry, if you don’t get the needle under the skin, then you will actually feel a lot of pain. You see the pain receptors that sense a sharp or painful object are found on the top of the skin in order to alert the body that something is not right for example if your animal love spot took over and you spontaneously had the urge to pet a porcupine. You get a strong message called “O.U.C.H”! But with acupuncture needles the more the needle gets inserted under the skin, the less you are likely to feel pain. It is only when the tip of the needle does not penetrate the skin quickly and swiftly, that you feel the pain that everyone associates with “the needles”.
The plastic tube is a god send for even the most needle phobic because it can make acupuncture a less painful and more enjoyable experience. Some traditionalists say you need to develop the sensitivity with the fingers and prep the point on the skin to be needled first, but using a guide tube gets your needle under the skin, the practitioner still has to find the way down to the right depth and encourage the needle to be “activated” so the brain can get the message that the needles are sending through the skin, picked up by the adjacent nerves in the area.
The plastic tube was originally developed by the Japanese 1,400 years ago. Acupuncture needles were used by Chinese monk-physicians who traveled from the mainland to Japan. One distinguishing characteristic that marked the development of Japanese acupuncture was the introduction of guide tubes designed to aid in the insertion of acupuncture needles in the skin. Before this invention, traditional practitioners of the art had inserted the needles by hand or used a small hammer to gently tap in the needle to the specific point. Historically, it is interesting to note that a blind Japanese acupuncturist invented the guide tube, which led to a surge of interest in acupuncture as a skilled trade for the blind. It was thought that blind people could hone their hands-on skills more proficiently due to their blindness and it resulted in a system known as “blind man acupuncture” which is still practiced in Japan today.
So, when people ask about acupuncture, no one seems to know about the tube!! You’ve got to ask yourself “Why is that?”
There are several reasons for this.
1-It is not macho for acupuncturists to say that they use the plastic tube when they insert needles. Most mainland Chinese practitioners use a free hand method with strong stimulation. This is the standard brought over from China, so many practitioners feel embarrassed that they don’t use this strong method.
2-Acupuncturists in America also use the plastic tube because many patients appreciate not having to deal with the pain associated with a strong free hand technique. A gentle tap and you are “in” under the skin, makes acupuncture much more easily tolerated and accepted by the patient. So I think the stigma that most closet tube users have about the tube prevent them from sharing this information to the public at large.
3-Consumers are warned of not letting an acupuncturist “re-use” needles and that they should be sterile. It is a laughable concern because the ethically minded practitioner will always “do no harm” and strive to do what has become the industry’s standard, that is to use disposable, sterile acupuncture needles. What consumer groups don’t even discuss or promote is “do acupuncturists use the plastic tube?” They should be doing this to better educate the public about acupuncture. This lack of publicity is also a leading reason why people don’t know about the tubes.
I had a patient who I was treating for headaches. I use points found on the sides of the fingers because they help to oxygenate the brain and really help to reduce headaches. If I wanted to do this humanely I used a half inch needle which I intended to insert 1 mm beneath the skin on the side of the finger. I used a small guide tube and presto, the needle went in with no pain felt by the patient.
I had another patient who had severe stress and he had trouble sleeping, and a teeth grinder. He was a great candidate for a group of 3 points on the side of the thigh, known for its pain relieving effects as well as its ability to utterly calm the anxious and stressed. Because the points are located on the side of the thigh, the guide tube placed on the point before needling, ensures that the needle does not slip downward, due to gravity and gets inserted in the wrong place. It also cuts down on sensitivity of needle insertion, as there is a whole band of muscle called the iliotibial band. This long sheath like band, easily gets painful when people are not stretching or are very active in sports, particularly jogging. Once again, the plastic tube helps to aid in needle placement as well as to minimize patient discomfort.
I did an experiment with the plastic tubes of acupuncture. I saved all the plastic tubes that came out of my clinic for 4 weeks. I had 6 bowls of plastic tubes! It then hit me! Here I am staring at over 600 plastic tubes that I come in contact on a daily basis but most people don’t even realize that we use these plastic tubes! Not even the people who get acupuncture!!!! So, during my “epiphany moment” I saw my chance to alter public perception by writing this article! So, using acupuncture specific plastic tubes can be a great way to minimize insertion pain, and help make the idea of acupuncture less phobic to people. So, next time you hear that your friend went to an acupuncturist, make sure to ask “Did you get the plastic tube?”