Are there risks or side effects to acupuncture?
Usually not. Acupuncture is a very safe method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve function.
Done properly, acupuncture rarely causes serious side effects. Many people feel a brief stinging sensation, like a pinprick, during insertion of the needles. Others experience a dull ache around the needle after it goes in.
Other problems documented by researchers resulted from mistakes made by the acupuncturists. For example, some have failed to refer their patients for other kinds of treatment that might be more effective for their illness. Others have spread serious infections by using needles that weren't sterile. A handful have injured patients by pushing a needle into a vital organ such as a lung. But overall, as the National Institutes of Health recently concluded, acupuncturists have an extremely good safety record.
A side effect that I have seen in my own practice is the original symptoms worsening for a few days after an acupuncture treatment. Sometimes other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work. My teacher explained it to me like this: Acupuncture is smoothing out blocked Qi (energy) that is stuck in areas of your body. When a garden hose gets a kink in it, the water stops flowing. When you straighten the hose, the built up pressure makes the water burst out in the beginning. This is what can happen when you first have acupuncture.
It is also common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These effects should wear off within 24-48 hours.
Please discuss what you have been experiencing with your acupuncturist. Your comfort is a priority. The more you communicate with the practitioner, the more he or she will be able to help you.
A few people have reported more serious reactions, such as dizziness, sweatiness, or nausea, according to a November 1999 issue of the Archives of Family Medicine. There have even been some cases reported where patients lost consciousness. However, these problems usually clear up on their own within a few minutes, without lasting harm to the patient.
While Acupuncture is an extremely safe form of physical medicine, here are some rarely seen contraindications and risks.
Precautions & Contraindications:
- It is contraindicated to needle the abdomen and lumbosacral areas of pregnant women
- Avoid blood vessels to prevent bleeding
- Points on the chest and back should be carefully needled to avoid injury to organs
Risks: (Some of the risks mentioned below are EXTREMELY RARE!)
- Muscle Spasms
- Nerve Damage
- Punctured Lung
- Accidental Injury to organs (Brain, Spinal Cord, Heart, Liver, Spleen, Kidney)