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.

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!