As acupuncture needles penetrate the skin it is not without some risk. Injuries are rare among patients treated by trained practitioners. In most countries, needles are required by law to be sterile, disposable and used only once; in some places, needles may be reused if they are first autoclaved.
Some styles of Japanese acupuncture use non-inserted needling. In this method, the needle is brought to the skin but never penetrates it. Other acupuncture tools are used to tap or stroke along the meridians. examples of these styles are T?y?hari and the pediatric acupuncture style Sh?nishin.
Possible minor side effects of Acupuncture include
- Minor bleeding after removal of the needles, seen in roughly 3% of patients. Usually not enough to require more than a cotton ball held against the spot for a few minutes.
- Hematoma(bleeding under the skin) seen in about 2% of patients, which manifests as bruises.
- Dizziness, seen in about 1% of patients. Rather than being a physiological effect from the acupuncture, this is more likely because of the fear(which may be a conscious or known fear or more deep-seated unconscious fear) of needles which can produce dizziness and other symptoms of anxiety. Patients are most often treated lying down in order to reduce likelihood of fainting.
Possible Rare Serious Injuries
Other risks of injury from the insertion of acupuncture needles include:
- Nerve injury resulting from a puncture of any nerve.
- Brain damage or stroke, which is possible only by deep needling at the base of the skull. If you suffered a brain injury review these brain damage claims.
- Pneumothorax from deep needling into the lung.
- Kidney damage from deep needling in the low back.
- Haemopericardium, or puncture of the protective membrane surrounding the heart, which may occur with needling over a sternal foramen (a hole in the breastbone that occurs as the result of a congenital defect.)
- Risk of terminating pregnancy with the use of certain acupuncture points that have been shown to stimulate the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and oxytocin.
The chance of these injuries is very small, especially when the treatment is performed by an accredited acupuncturist
Complementary not Replacement Therapy
Acupuncture should not be seen as a replacement to modern, scientific medicine or health care. If you have a heart attack or sudden onset of a life threatening condition you need to see a doctor, not an acupuncturist.
Safety compared with other treatments
Acupuncture is seen as incredibly safe if the “do no harm” test is used. For example, acupuncture to treat pain or muscle spasm as almost no chance of doing harm, whilst strong drugs can result in organ damage or even more serious outcomes including death.
The danger in acupuncture comes from not also considering seeing a clinical physician. Pain in the abdomen could be something far more serious than can be diagnosed or treated by an acupuncturist. The individual should use their common sense when determining the appropriate treatment for their condition.