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Q:  During a normal acupuncture session, when a needle is inserted into  the face of a person, does the needle actually touch the bone or does the needle simply pierce the skin?

A: In theory, the needle should only pierce the skin and enter soft tissue or muscle. If the skin and tissue is very thin at the point where the needle is inserted, then the usual technique is to adopt a very shallow oblique angle of insertion rather than a near perpendicular one. This avoids the needle having so little of its shaft inserted that it starts to bend over with the weight of the shaft and handle. An alternative is to switch to a shorter and considerably lighter needle.

However, there are no guarantees that a practitioner will not accidentally touch the bone in cases where they have inserted a needle a little too far. This may be a little painful for the patient, but the greater potential for harm lies in the fact that the tip of the needle is likely to be deformed and will cause slight tears in the tissue when it is removed. This might then lead to a small amount of pain and bruising.

However, there are no case reports of which we are aware, certainly in the UK, of any damage being done to facial bone as a consequence of acupuncture treatment, or that if done this can have long term consequences. If you are wondering this because of what has happened during your own treatment, then you should ask the practitioner to explain what they did, and ask them to consider whether this was possibly what happened. A reputable practitioner will take the matter seriously and give your question the time of day. 

You should bear in mind, though, that there are a number of sensations which can be caused by needles when they are inserted which feel like a very dull ache and can sometimes be mistaken for a more 'solid' feeling than is the case. This is particularly so with one called 'deqi' by the Chinese which is often experienced as a very dull ache and feels on occasion like something has been knocked into.


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