I started writing this 2 years ago and have gone back to finish it today:
A lot of people never try acupuncture because they might call themselves "needle phobic". Last night a woman came in to the clinic sweating and soaked from the rain, telling me she couldn't believe she was trying acupuncture, because she was so petrified of needles. There's normally a good reason, and I got out the cosy fleece blankets and my Japanese blue plastic handled needles that are so fine, they are almost invisible. It went very smoothly and I'll see her again for a follow up. I notice that most people I treat don't want to see the needles, so it's pretty normal not to look.
The first acupuncture needles I ever used were in Japan in 2000. I didn't know at the time that they are the best needles in the world and I use them on children and sensitive adults. Acupuncture instruments weren't always that sophisticated; our family practitioner in Burpham use to use reusable needles and sterilize them in an autoclave. In ancient times, the tools were made of flint, crude metallic instruments and bone. They weren't always inserted into the skin, but also used to scrape, tap and rub the acupuncture channels.
Around 2006 when I finished my acupuncture degree, there were a lot of new companies sending samples of their disposable needles. I came across a cheap brand of needles and found that they were more painful when inserted into the skin. It was peculiar how they left tiny black dots on the skin. My dad was a quality engineer at medical parts companies where they invented pacemakers, tens machines and various other devices. I only understood what that meant when I used those cheap needles. Dad asked if I'd ever inspected the tips of the needles with a magnifying glass. He said the tips could be rough, and also have oil residue if they weren't finished well in the factory. The little black dots on the skin, he said, was from oil on the needle shaft, and that meant the factory quality control was poor. Well, that needle company didn't last long. The same month, the British Medical Journal published an article about needle quality with a close up picture of the tip of a needle that looked like it had tiny slivers spiking out. I now use excellent quality needles from trustworthy suppliers.
I comfortable treating people with needle phobias and people who are just sensitive because there are so many treatment choices. I leave my acupuncture treatments feeling blissfully relaxed.