Is Acupuncture safe?


Acupuncture is safe when practised by a Registered Physiotherapy Acupuncturist because of the strict hygiene guidelines, training courses and educational updates required to stay on the membership register.

There are very few adverse events to Acupuncture treatment reported, your Physiotherapist providing the Acupuncture treatment should carefully screen you for potential risks and warn you of any potential adverse events.

The needles are single-use, disposable and pre-sterilised in individual packaging. They are often supplied in guide-tubes for easy insertion, with no risk of anything touching the needle during the process.

Registered Physiotherapy Acupuncturists undertake a responsibility to themselves and their patients, to be sure from the outset of their treatment that the principles of safe, hygienic insertion of needles and their subsequent disposal are adhered to.  Used needles are disposed of in special containers that are destroyed by incineration.


Acupuncture is generally very safe.  Serious side effects are very rare - less than one per 10,000 treatments.

Does acupuncture have side effects?


You need to be aware that:
•    drowsiness occurs after treatment in a small number of patients, and, if affected, you are advised not to drive;
•    minor bleeding or bruising occurs after acupuncture in about 3% of treatments;
•    pain during treatment occurs in about 1% of treatments;
•    existing symptoms can get worse after treatment (less than 3% of patients).  You should tell your acupuncturist about this, but it is usually a good sign;
•    fainting can occur in certain patients, particularly at the first treatment.
In addition, there are particular risks that apply in your case; your physiotherapist will discuss these with you.

Is there anything your practitioner needs to know?

Apart from the usual medical details, it is important that you let your physiotherapist know:
•    if you have ever experienced a fit, faint or funny turn;
•    if you have a pacemaker or any other electrical implants;
•    if you have a bleeding disorder;
•    if you are taking anti-coagulants or any other medication;
•    if you have damaged heart valves or have any other particular risk of infection (i.e. if you have to have antibiotics to go to the dentist);
•    if you are pregnant.

Acupuncture over the trunk

The framework of the trunk is based around the spinal column of 12 vertebra and the rib cage of 12 paired ribs, which are connected by ligaments, muscles, discs and joints.  Within the spinal column is the spinal cord, which transmits information via nerves to and from the brain to the rest of the body.  Within the rib cage is the heart and lungs, which extend up under the collarbones and as far down as the eighth ribs.  The lungs are covered by pleura (like a plastic bag), which extend slightly lower again, down to the 10th ribs.

Specific potential complications of needling over the trunk

Acupuncture over the trunk and the corresponding lung field is a very common treatment performed safely by physiotherapy acupuncturists.  However, a remote possibility of damage to the lungs or their pleura exists resulting in a pneumothorax (or collapsed lung).  If there is any indication that you may be at risk, your physiotherapy acupuncturist will advise you and offer alternative treatment techniques.

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