If you were to take a man-on-the-street survey about the one thing in acupuncture with which people were most concerned, odds are the answer would be very simple: needles. More specifically, will they hurt? You can have all the skills in the world, but if your patients never come back for a second treatment because the needles hurt too much, you've lost your chance to prove just how valuable acupuncture treatments can be.
When Acupuncture Today PracticeINSIGHTS surveyed top needle vendors as to what qualities practitioners should seek out in their needles, they concurred with this. Assuring patient comfort means ensuring repeat business and a growing practice.
Bill Mortimer, marketing manager for Lhasa OMS, Inc., a needle supplier based out of Weymouth, Mass., put it in terms that any acupuncturist should easily understand: "Deciding which brand of acupuncture needle to use is important to your business. The quality of treatment you provide is directly related to the tools at your disposal. An inferior needle can result in painful treatments and discourage patients from returning to your practice."
Vivian Zhang, MB, MS, LAc, Dipl. CH is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Manager at Emerson Ecologics, a needle supply company based in Bedford, NH. She agrees with Mortimer that patient comfort is really of utmost importance.
She states, "As acupuncturists, we want to bring the most benefit to patients with the least discomfort when the needle penetrates the skin."
So then, the big question is how to "build" a more comfortable needle. For Mortimer, it comes down to technology and quality ingredients. He explains, "At first glance, an acupuncture needle may appear to be very simple, but in order to build a consistent and completely safe acupuncture needle, the manufacturer needs to have significant investment in technology and a commitment to quality."
Zhang agrees, stating, "Regarding quality of acupuncture needles, one needs to consider the materials, needle point geometry and the needle manufacturing process."
So it would clearly appear that quality materials and manufacturing translates to a quality needle, which in turn, translates into a good experience for patients and a thriving practice for you.
Use the finest needles possible for your patients' first treatment. If a patient has a pain-free first experience, they're more likely to be a repeat customer. Try it out on yourself first. If you are purchasing a new brand or size of needle, see how it feels on you before you try it out on your patient. If you find the needle to be too painful, odds are good your patient will as well.
Reward bravery. If you've just coaxed a nervous patient through their first session, they should get some sort of reward such as an "I was very brave" sticker to wear out after the treatment.
Show and tell. Send each new patient home with a "sample" needle. They can then show everybody exactly what acupuncture needles look like as they talk about your treatment.