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Guide Tube

History of the Guide Tube

The guide tube or shinkan was invented during Japan’s Edo period(1603-1867) by a blind acupuncturist named Waichi Sugiyama.  According to legend, he was out walking when he tripped over a reed. Inside the reed was a small pine needle that stuck in his leg. From this incident, the first guide tube was inspired. The invention of the guide tube allowed acupuncturists to insert very fine needles into patients with little or no pain.

Today, practitioners have turned the use of the guide tube into an art. For example, a skilled acupuncturist can use the guide tube as an extension of their hand to move and hold soft tissue or internal structures out of the way as the needle is inserted.  The end of the guide tube can be used similarly to a teishin for light pressing and rubbing techniques. These techniques require a good-quality metal guide tube with comfortable, well-designed ends.  If the ends are sharp or rough, it may cause discomfort or even scratch the patient; therefore, one should avoid poorly made or plastic guide tubes for anything but basic insertion.

Reusable copper guide tubes offer several advantages over plastic guide tubes in acupuncture practice. 


Better for the Environment

AcuArtistry’s guide tubes are more eco-friendly because they are reusable and have a longer lifespan than single-use plastic tubes. In fact, if cared for properly, they will last a lifetime. Plastic tubes are discarded after a single use, contributing to plastic waste in landfills and oceans.. So, choose needles with guide tube-free multipacks and use AcuArtistry guide tubes for a sustainable choice that reduces your clinic's ecological impact.

More Comfortable for the Patient
AcuArtistry’s guide tubes have smooth, rounded edges, which provide a more comfortable experience for patients during acupuncture treatments. A skilled acupuncturist can use the guide tube to comfortably move anatomical structures out of the way for more precise needling. This enables practitioners to access specific acupuncture points with greater accuracy, enhancing the effectiveness of the treatment.


While reusable guide tubes may have a higher initial cost than single-use plastic tubes, their durability and reusability make them a cost-effective choice in the long run. Acupuncturists can save money by investing in high-quality copper tubes that can last many years and pairing them with needle multipacks.

A chart showing guide tube sizes by acupuncture needle brand.

Easy To Clean

Cleaning copper guide tubes is straightforward, thanks to copper's durability and exceptional corrosion resistance. You can confidently clean and disinfect these guide tubes without damaging them. Sterilization can be performed by autoclaving or using the appropriate disinfectant of your choice. Bleach and ammonia-based cleaners should be avoided as they can react with copper and cause wear over time.  Even though copper is naturally antimicrobial, it must be cleaned thoroughly with an appropriate envirocide between uses.

How to do a single-hand guide tube reload. 

The single-hand guide tube reload is considered a fundamental skill in several styles of Japanese acupuncture.  It should be practiced slowly and smoothly until it becomes effortless.  The goal is to reload the guide tube while looking at your patient and palpating the next point with your other hand.  This will seem difficult at first, but it will soon be second nature with a bit of constant practice.

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