Acupuncture needles are nothing like the hypodermic needles used by medics for injections and collecting blood. My experience as an acupuncturist is that any patient who is a little nervous prior to their first treatment is completely reassured and put at ease when I show them the acupuncture needles that I use.
Acupuncture needles are much finer than the needles used by medics. The needles that I use are the width of a hair. This is one of the reasons why most people find acupuncture virtually painless. With eleven years in practice, it is clear to me that most people enjoy their treatment in much the same way as most people enjoy having a massage.
There is some variation in the width of acupuncture needles used by different practitioners. The width of the needle, variations in which would not be visible to the naked eye, is referred to as the gauge. Historically, acupuncture needles used in China would be of a thicker gauge; while those used in traditional Japanese-style practice would be thinner. Here in the UK in modern times, it is very much a personal choice by the practitioner.
There are a multitude of suppliers in east Asian countries such as China, Korea, and Japan that make acupuncture needles for the UK profession. I do not know of any producers here in Europe, but that does not necessarily mean that there are none. All needles used in the European Union have to conform to CE0120 standards, which ensures the the sterility and safety of our equipment. As a further safeguard, all acupuncture needles used in this country must also have an expiration date and must not be used after this.
The needles that I use are 0.25mm wide. I also have slightly narrower acupuncture needles 0.20mm wide which I use primarily on acupuncture points on the face.
The acupuncture needles I use in treatment all come in individual sterile packaging with one needle in each packet (some acupuncturists use packets with multiple needles in). These sealed packets are opened immediately prior to treatment and never placed on an intermediate surface of any kind. A trained acupuncturist will know that they can only hold the needle by the thicker end, and if they accidently touch the shaft of the needle, it will be discarded.
Historically in China, gold needles were used, but in the UK, disposable acupuncture needles are mostly used which are used once and then collected in a sharps box to be destroyed by incineration. Obviously it would be very expensive to continually dispose of gold needles in this way, so stainless steel is used to manufacture the needles instead.
To find out more about an acupuncture clinic near you in London, go to: http://www.londonacupuncturetherapy.co.uk/london-acupuncture-clinic/