After my acupuncture exam last week, Tony asked me "how'd the poking go?". Yes, it's best to not think of acupuncture as being needled, but rather poked. The needles are so small and don't elicit pain, they just cause a sensation similar to being poked.
On the topic of acupuncture, let's discuss the cleanliness and sterility of an acupuncture treatment. We (NDs) are taught to be extremely thorough in maintaining a sterile treatment environment. Here's how:
The Acupuncture Clean Needle Technique, Part One
Prior to beginning the poking (er, needling), the doctor will set up a clean field. A clean field is a work space that must remain as sterile as possible. Only "clean items" are to be placed on this field. The clean field consists of a piece of paper towel or tissue paper (never before used), cotton swabs, alcohol dipped cotton balls, and sealed needles. All acupuncture needles are individually wrapped in plastic and are only opened prior to insertion. Doctors never touch needle shafts because each needle is protected by an insertion tube that helps doctors guide the needle into the body (only when the needle is inserted is the tube removed and placed on the dirty field). Speaking of a dirty field... for every yin there is a yang, so every clean field needs a dirty field. A dirty field also is made up of a piece of paper towel or tissue paper. It is where the needle packaging, used cotton tips, and used cotton balls are placed. The dirty field is also home to a sharps container, which is where all used needles are placed. At the end of a treatment, both the clean and dirty fields are thrown in the garbage.
Within the week, you can expect part two to this post (it will explain how needles are inserted into the body in a safe manner and what each of the clean field items (described above) are used for). Image source here.