Acupuncture is a process of inserting thin needles in specific points of the body to regulate the flow of energy or Qi. It is a natural and safe practice to get relief from different kinds of medical conditions. World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged that acupuncture therapy is effective in treating 47 medical conditions including back pain, acne, insomnia asthma, infertility, obesity, and irritable colon syndrome.
A study of 2.2 million acupuncture sessions showed the overall incidence of acupuncture-related adverse events was 8.6% among which 2.2% of the patients required medical treatment. The vast majority of adverse events were due to minor bleeding/hematomas (6.1%), pain (1.7%) or vegetative symptoms such as vertigo, nausea etc. (0.7%). Thirty-five patients suffered from breathing difficulties after acupuncture treatment but only two cases of pneumothorax were reported. Furthermore, 31 patients suffered a nerve injury, which in one case lasted 180 days but overall no permanent injuries or deaths occurred (Ref).
Here are some common side-effects of acupuncture
Although all trained acupuncturist will avoid visible vessels, slight bruising at the needling site is still very common after acupuncture. This is because the collection of blood at the site where the needle punctures the skin, or the needle breaks small vessels under skin. Extra caution is necessary for people using blood thinner. Bruising lasts longer than soreness, it takes from 1-7 days to disappear. Overall, bruising is not big issue.
After the treatment, you may feel a little sore at the local area where needles are inserted. This happens commonly in sensitive areas like hands and feet. Usually, the soreness can last 1-3 days without any consequence.
Few people also experience dizziness or lightheadedness immediately after needles are inserted or post-treatment. Needle should be removed by acupuncturists, and patients should lay down on the acupuncture table for some time and take some deep breath. Also, to avoid such a situation, always eat something before your session.
Very few people feel tired or even exhausted after acupuncture. This only happens when the patients are relatively weak or empty stomach for a while. It generally disappears a few hours after rest and having some food, but for some people, it lasts for up to several days. This is very rare and and one must not worry about it.
This is known as the most common serious complication following acupuncture, but it is quite rarely reported. Patient will immediately experience chest pain and shortness of breathing minutes after a needle was inserted near the lung area. This need emergent medical treatment. According to a large study, two cases of pneumothorax out of 2.2 million acupuncture sessions, were reported. Every trained acupuncturist should be very aware of this safety issue.