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The Anatomy of an Acupuncture Needle

By Sara Calabro

Can I see it? Acupuncturists get asked this a lot. “It” being the acupuncture needle.

Many people are curious about these mysterious and sometimes anxiety-provoking objects. Most of the time, when people are shown acupuncture needles, they are surprised to discover how thin they are. They do not bear any resemblance to needles that are used for injections or to draw blood.

See for yourself. The pictures below show an average-size acupuncture needle.

What Does an Acupuncture Needle Look Like?

This is the shaft of an acupuncture needle, the part that the acupuncturist holds:

This is the tip of an acupuncture needle, the part that is inserted into your body:

Acupuncture needles are so thin that they bend when you touch the tip:

The average-size acupuncture needle is slightly shorter than a tube of lib balm:

Acupuncture needles, depending on the body part, are inserted about one-quarter of an inch into the skin (areas with muscle mass or adipose tissue can require deeper insertion):

Think of this as your friend:

Acupuncture needles come in various lengths and thinnesses, with many acupuncturists opting for needles even thinner than what’s shown here. If you have a fear of needles, let your acupuncturist know. Most acupuncturists stock several needle sizes and will be more than happy to use the thinnest variety at your request.

Photos by Sara Calabro

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Hi Sara,

Love your articles! Thanks for taking the time to write them!
I would have also added to this that it takes at least 20 (thinnest grade) acupuncture needles to fit into a large hypodermic needle. You may want to experiment and take a picture of that!

Thanks again for the great info to pass on.



Great post!

As manny people have a lot of questions about acupuncture needles, this post will answer a lot of them.

Acupuncture Needles

Really interesting article! I appreciate your new idea. Thanks for sharing with us.

Joshua Teas

1/4 inch insertion is misleading. Different styles of acupuncture call for a wide variety of insertion depths and insertion techniques. 1/4 inch barely makes it through the dermal layer.

Thomas Blasejewicz

Congratulation on the good work.
However, the needle shown is the “Chinese kind” of needle. Having practiced acupuncture for the past 30 years in Japan, personally I would not volunteer for a treatment with those and use them on my patients only as the absolute last resort. The youngest patient I treated with Japanese NEEDLES was 3 years old – and did not complain. I dare doubt, that he would have taken the treatment with the shown needles.
Otherwise the youngest patients I ever treated were my own four children: moxibustion on the day they were born.
I believe many people would opt for the gentler Japanese style of acupuncture if they only knew about it.
Greetings from Japan
Thomas Blasejewicz


*Sigh*, indeed, I have found certain Chinese acupuncturists treatments to be VERY painful. I suspect that it is because the needles are larger or they just make it more painful in general. It seems that the Chinese ‘philosophy’ of sorts seems to be ‘no pain no gain’ but this is not really true. :( I have found this more painful style of acupuncture to be effective, but I doubt that it is really necessary to achieve the benefits one seeks. It is very hard to find anyone who practices Japanese acupuncture.


Where are you located? I can help you find a practitioner who practices Japanese acupuncture.


Steve Compton

We need this kind of thing to help reduce the fear factor. A couple of quibbles: What you are calling the shaft is actually the handle of the needle. The tip is the sharpened end of the shaft which is inserted into the patient. Sometimes, depending on acupuncture styles, much more than 1/4 inch of the shaft is inserted. This is why, according to Clean Needle Technique, the acupuncturist should NEVER hold the needle by the shaft, only by the handle.

[…] bear any resemblance to needles that are used for injections or to draw blood. (See one up close¬†here.) In most cases, the insertion of acupuncture needles does not hurt. It can produce¬†a variety of […]


I am so relieved to hear that my side effects are normal. But why does my body hurt if I move while the needles are still inserted?
Sara reading your articles has given me the confidence to keep up my accupuncture treatments. Thanks so much.

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