Do the Treatments Have Any Side Effects? How Safe Is Acupuncture?

Will I experience side effects?

Usually not. When energy is unblocked and allowed to rebalance within the body, internal biochemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. On occasion the presenting symptoms may worsen for a day or two. With the first couple of treatments there may also be brief, mild changes in appetite, sleep, or a change in your emotional state. These changes should not raise concern, as they are good indications that you are responding to the acupuncture treatment.
It is common to have a sense of well-being or deep relaxation especially after the first one or two treatments. This usually passes after a few hours. Rest helps to overcome any side effects that you may experience. Some people may experience mild light-headedness immediately after a treatment which subsides within a short time, usually within an hour. Some people may experience some soreness at the needle sites afterwards. Applying heat to the sites for 20-30 minutes helps the muscles relax and relieve this sensation. On rare occasions a small bruise may occur at the needle sites. Bruising is rare even for people who are on blood thinners.

Are the treatments safe?

Acupuncture has been safely practiced for over 3000 years all over the world.

Medical acupuncture which is performed by a medical physician is differentiated from acupuncture which may be performed by a licensed acupuncturist or chiropractor or a physical therapist who call their version of acupuncture "dry needling".  Other practitioners do not have a medical school background and residency training.

Two large reports studied this question and were published in the British Medical Journal.

"Doctors and physiotherapists who performed acupuncture reported no serious adverse events and 671 minor adverse events per 10,000 acupuncture consultations."
1. White, A. Adverse events following acupuncture: prospective survey of 32,000 consultations with doctors and physiotherapists. BMJ 2001; 323: 485-486.

"In this prospective survey, no adverse events were reported after 34,407 acupuncture treatments."
2. MacPherson, H. The York acupuncture safety study: prospective survey of 34,000 treatments by traditional acupuncturists. BMJ 2001; 323: 486-487.