“Is Acupuncture safe?” is a very common question asked when people inquire about acupuncture.
The answer is Yes! In fact, the safety of acupuncture is one of the attractions for many people that seek complementary medicine such as acupuncture. Compared to pharmaceuticals and surgery, acupuncture is much safer.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine, single-use disposable sterile needles into the surface of the body, and may include moxibustion, cupping, electro-stimulation, manual pressure and other techniques used in the practice of Oriental Medicine. The risk of infection is extremely low with proper needle use and technique.
Because fine needles are inserted into the skin, potential risks may include slight pain or discomfort, bleeding, or bruising at the site of needle insertion. The most common complication seen at AbsoluteQi is soreness post treatment which is almost always a result or trigger point acupuncture and the soreness lasts about a day. The second most common complication is bruising, which I probably see less than one a week, not many considering how many needles I use on a weekly basis.
Other rare complications can be weakness, fainting, nausea and possible temporary aggravation of symptoms. Occurrences of these situations are extremely rare and can be minimized by proper training of the acupuncturist and proper nutrition and rest prior to the treatment for the patient.
Since I began practicing acupuncture in 2000, I have only seen a couple of instances of complications other than soreness and bruising, which were slight dizziness, slight headaches and nausea – most of which were because the patient was nervous at their first treatment and having a slight panic attack or had not had anything to eat prior to the treatment.
More serious complications have been reported (not at AbsoluteQi), but are extremely rare, such as organ punctures, which would be a result of risky treatments or non-standard anatomy and are avoided with proper training in anatomy and clean-needle handling techniques.
The truth can be measured in a third-party way…acupuncture malpractice insurance is on average $750 a year, compare that to medical malpractice (tens or hundreds of thousands) and you get the idea.
A study of 34,000 acupuncture treatments reported a serious adverse event rate of between 0 and 1.1 per 10,000 treatments. Here is a link to the study with the statistics and explanation of what was found: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC48134/