Is acupuncture safe?

Studies and research have found that acupuncture is extremely safe. The results of two independent surveys published in the British Medical Journal (MacPherson, et al. 2001; White, et al. 2001) concluded that the risk of serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000 treatments. Only single-use sterile needles are used, which are disposed of immediately in a special container that is collected and incinerated by a licensed contaminated waste handler. Practitioners are highly skilled, undergoing at least three years’ extensive training in traditional Chinese Medicine, anatomy and physiology, and Western medicine.

All our acupuncturists are full members of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the professional body that oversees standards for acupuncturists in the UK, and which fully insures us to carry out treatments. The government’s Professional Standards Authority, which accredits the BAcC, ensures that those standards are equal to those of any other healthcare professional working in the UK. We are all licensed by the City of York Council, which also licenses the premises, for the practice of acupuncture. All this means that the safety and effectiveness of your treatment, and the care you receive, are equally high as those of other healthcare professionals – despite the low cost.

Undesirable side-effects do occasionally occur, but these are mild and self-correcting. The most common side-effect is a feeling of relaxation or drowsiness after a treatment, which should be short-lived. If this occurs, we recommend that you rest for a short time before driving or operating machinery. Sometimes a small bruise may appear at the site of a needle insertion – again, this should disappear within a few days.

And if you are worried about needles – chances are you’re thinking of the needles used at your GP’s surgery or at the hospital to take blood. These are hypodermic needles, some 20-30 times larger than a typical acupuncture needle. A typical acupuncture needle is about the width of a human hair – the picture on the left is a good example. Its insertion is usually painless, although some patients report some sensation – typically a tingling, a feeling of warmth, or a dull ache. This is the Qi being activated by the needle, and shows that the needle is doing its good work!