Updated: Jan 18, 2019
The World Health Organization deems acupuncture a safe procedure when performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner using sterile needles. Before receiving acupuncture treatment, patients should be aware of the possible risks and side effects, as well as ensure they are receiving acupuncture from a properly certified practitioner.
Acupuncture generally has less side effects than most medications and other procedures. Minor side effects of acupuncture can include tiredness and lightheadedness. Patients should not receive acupuncture if they are over-tired or have an empty stomach, because it increases the risk of fainting. Other minor side-effects are bruising, bleeding, or mild pain at the site of needle insertion.
Although they are very rare instances, more serious harms associated with acupuncture include infection, puncture of internal organs, broken or migrating needle, and bleeding. It is important to only receive acupuncture treatment from a licensed or certified acupuncturists.
Acupuncture treatments have specific cautions and contraindications for patients who have a pacemaker, are pregnant, or having a bleeding disorder.
Acupuncture needles are regulated by the FDA and are sterile, biocompatible, and single-use. Needles come in blister packs, which contain ethylene-oxide gas. This ensures they remain sterile before use.
It is important to ensure your acupuncturist is qualified. Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc.’s) have a minimum of two-thousand hours (3-4 years) of training in the field of acupuncture. This is what qualifies them to administer acupuncture safely and effectively. Other types of doctors and practitioners may hold certifications to practice acupuncture. It is suggested to inquire about your practitioner’s level of training and certification. Dry Needling is not recommended and is banned in many states. Dry Needling is when non-acupuncturist medical professionals insert acupuncture needles into muscle tissue as a form of therapy. There is a greater risk of punctured lung (pneumothorax) and injury due to improper needle insertion when needling therapy is not performed by an acupuncturist or medical professional with proper training.
Where do I Find a Qualified Practitioner?
The Nation Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is the only national organization that validates entry-level competency in the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) through professional certification. To find a practitioner, visit the NCCAOM directory: http://www.nccaom.org/find-a-practitioner-directory/