How Safe Is Acupuncture, And Are There Any Risks Or Side Effects From Treatment?

Tony Chon, M.D., Mayo

Question: How safe is acupuncture, and are there any risks or side effects from treatment?

Answer: Acupuncture practice in developed parts of the world using single-use disposable needles sealed by the manufacturer in sterile conditions. The needles are open just prior to use by the acupuncture practitioner. Because of this, the risk of infection is very low.

Acupuncture has relatively few side effects. Because the needles break the skin, although rare, side effects can happen. Sometimes there's a little bleeding, soreness or bruising at the acupuncture site.

In certain situations, organ punctures have been reported; however, most of these events were thought to be secondary to practitioner negligence. If herbs are burned too close to the surface of the skin, burn injuries may occur.

There are several conditions or situations where acupuncture has be used with caution. [For] patients taking blood thinners, or having a bleeding disorder, the acupuncture practitioner has to use vigilance in selecting points. In patients that are pregnant, during certain stages of pregnancy, acupuncture points can actually induce labor.

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