Objectives: The objective of this review is to investigate the existing scientific information on the safe needling depth of acupuncture points.
Methods: The PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine), NCCAM (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), and CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) databases were searched to identify relevant monographs from 1991 to 2009. Additional articles were also identified from the reference list of identified articles. Chinese journals that we thought might be relevant to our study were hand searched.
Results: Thirty-three (33) studies were recruited into the review. Each research study was analyzed for study design, investigated acupuncture points, definition of safe depth, measuring methods, subject number, and for discussion of de qi. Factors that would affect the measured depth such as gender, age, body sizes, right or left side of limb, if using Ton Shen Cun for comparison, and needling angles were also reviewed. Needling depth of each point was revealed as well.
Conclusions: There is great inconsistency in terms of safe needling depths measured from different subject groups and measuring methods. There is suitable justification for a well-designed clinical trial to investigate the real needling depth for each acupuncture points to avoid adverse effects or complications.