Acupuncture Needles: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

An acupuncture needle is, at first glance, a very simple instrument. It has the power, however, to create tremendous change. Knowing how acupuncture needles are made, the different kinds of handles, metals, and needle tips to choose from, will help you choose the right needle for the right patient.

The ever-increasing popularity of acupuncture has brought with it opportunistic manufacturers. As a result, there are many companies offering brands of needles that are low in price and quality. Companies with substandard practices survive because many practitioners are lured by these lower costs. However, we must recognize that the driving success of our profession is the positive experience and confidence we generate in our patients. A substandard needle creates a substandard result.

Here at Eastern Currents we have done the legwork to find superior needles that offer you a wide selection of clinical options at great value. 


Common knowledge tells us that “you get what you pay for”. In China, while labor is cheap, it is the other aspects of manufacturing that are variable. Those aspects include the type of metal used to make the needle, sharpening methods, the type of Sterile Room the needles are assembled and packaged in, and the quality control standards in place at each level of manufacturing.


Stainless steel comes in a variety of grades and it is one of the key cost factors. Different grades of surgical steel have different properties, which may affect the quality of your treatment.

Lubricants may or may not be used. Types and qualities vary and will affect the cost of the needle.


Manufacturing facilities vary greatly. Very low-end needles are outsourced to individuals for sharpening, or to facilities with little or no quality control, and then brought back to the main factory to be packaged and sterilized. Mid-range facilities use better quality control, and a 100K sterile facility for finishing the needle and packaging. A 100K sterile room allows for 100,000 airborne particles per cubic meter. Better yet, some facilities are manufactured in a 10K sterile room. That means only 10,000 ambient air particles are permitted per cubic meter. The more stringent factories are about cleanliness, the less bacteria ends up on the shaft of the needle. All needles are sterilized, but if they are made in a factory with poor quality control, a quantity of dead bacteria will remain on the shaft of the needle after sterilization. Sensitive patients will react to the proteins on the shaft of the needles from the dead bacteria. This is called the pyrogen effect and in most cases cause redness, and possibly hives and itching. Low-end needles should be avoided no matter how attractive the savings are. We do ourselves and our patients a disservice by inserting low quality metal of uncertain manufacture into our patient’s precious body.

Here at Eastern Currents Distributing, we make every effort to ensure the high quality of all the needles we carry. The needles we carry are made in factories with integrated manufacturing and quality control procedures. Prices between brands may vary because of the raw materials; however, manufacturing is set at a high standard, so you can be confident in the products you purchase.


It is intuitive that certain tools fit specific jobs. As a practitioner, you need to assess your style of needling and challenge yourself to adapt your style to each patient that walks in your door. Each needle type has particular features that can be matched to the patient and their situation. You would be surprised by how many practitioners use the same type of needle on every patient that walks into their clinic.

In many schools, students will use only one or two styles of needles, but are not taught that certain needles are more beneficial for some patients. At Eastern Currents, we are trying to change that, because by considering the patient’s body type and condition, a needle that best matches the patient’s presentation can be chosen to enhance clinical success. For more information on acupuncture needles, please read our tutorial.

For more information on acupuncture needles, please read our tutorial.

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