Acupuncturist Questions Acupuncture

Can acupuncture treatment go wrong?

Are there any risks involved in an acupuncture treatment? What happens if pressure is given to the wrong point? I'm thinking about doing this to reduce some tension I feel in my muscles.

17 Answers

The only “risk” would be if you went to someone unlicensed.
I have treated many cases of GERD. In our clinic we generally include herbal supplementation for this syndrome and, of course, dietary recommendations as a preventative modality.
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I would like you to be aware that when properly performed by a professionally Licensed Acupuncturist, the side effects of treatments are rarely negative. There are, though, people who are allowed to stick needles in people and say what they are doing is "acupuncture" though they have not been fully trained. There are also people who stick acupuncture needles in people and call it "dry needling" but are extremely minimally trained. When done by the latter, the side effects become more common and can be more severe and problematic.

With that said, the minor side effects are bruising, a drop or two of blood loss, some minor pains or discomfort, bruising, etc. More severely there's dizziness, blood loss, fainting, headache, etc. Most severely, there is pneumothorax, an increase in complaint issues, punctured organs, drop in blood pressure, etc. The most common side effects I see are actually a sense of relaxation and stress reduction with some minor body aches when physical muscle tension is released.

Keep in mind, that some of the side effects can be mitigated by having the patient eat well before the treatment and be well rested with no drugs or alcohol in the system (except for prescribed meds of course). Also, having the practitioner talk you through the treatment, i.e. checking that you are not uncomfortable, asking if you're ok as they needle, etc. You, as the patient, should definitely speak up if you feel any excess pain or discomfort.

For your tension release, there are two aspects of that. Emotional tension is easily released with minimal side effects, physical pain can also be released easily but may have a side effect of "tired achy muscles" because the muscle itself is releasing it's flex and so becomes tired and sore like after a heavy workout. For that, a liniment or pain patch can relieve the pain and it should clear in two days tops. As far as "wrong points" go, there really is no terrible thing that would happen, it just won't be as effective - it's not like giving a wrong medication with terrible side effects, it just won't be as useful in treatment. In some cases, however, a wrong point can bring an exacerbation of the issue but again, a trained professional should be well aware of proper treatment from diagnosis of pattern.

So, key here is 1. Eat well and rest well before your treatment. 2. No alcohol or drug use for at least one full day before treatment. 3. No excess sexual activity before treatment. 4. Ask questions of your practitioner and make sure they are Licensed Acupuncturists, not just DC's or PT's that had minimal training. 5. Let the practitioner know if you're nervous about anything so they can help relieve your nervousness. 6. Let your practitioner know if anything is making you uncomfortable or causing pain. The practitioner is there to help you and is very concerned about your total wellbeing, so please communicate with them. I promise they will not ignore you like some hospitals do, if they do, go somewhere else for treatment.

Enjoy the experience.

Very little risk with acupuncture from a trained professional. There really is no "wrong point" as point prescriptions follow specific rules. People often think if they have ie: "shoulder pain" the treatment will be in the shoulder itself. Not necessarily true! Distal points often have better effects.
Safety surveys has helped establish a positive safety record for acupuncture in the West (White 2004; MacPherson 2001). Licensed acupuncturists are trained to do no bodily harm. Acupuncturists are specialists, honing their techniques over 3-4 years of careful study and application on thousands of patients.

Acupuncture is an excellent way to relieve stress and reduce tension in tight muscles. Many of our patients fall asleep during their treatments only to awake refreshed and relaxed
Yes, there are absolutely risks to acupuncture treatment. We insert needles into your body, so the obvious risks would be: pain, bruising, infection, puncturing an organ that should not be punctured.... That being said, I have only experienced the bruising and quite rarely with my patients, aside from some discomfort/pain. The puncturing of an organ, such as the lung's cavity (aka a pneumothorax), has as far as my understanding goes only happened 3 times--and none of those incidents were done by a fully trained acupuncturist (it was a physical therapist performing "dry needling," which I recommend never trying due to inadequate training).

I have never heard of anyone being severely harmed from acupuncture performed by a licensed, fully trained practitioner (beware: chiropractors, doctors and physical therapists can often do aspects of what we do with significantly less training).

Personally, I prefer Japanese style practitioners and those familiar with the work of Richard Tan for pain and tension treatments. Hope that is helpful!
The most common side effects of acupuncture include bruising, itching, lightheadedness, and, very rarely, fainting. Depending on the level of experience, the acupuncturist may insert the needle in the wrong area; nothing is going to happen, although you may feel a little sting.
There are some risks to acupuncture, depending on the techniques used by your practitioner. If they are using strictly needles and needling muscles, they can increase soreness and pain for about a week. Remember, anything that can hurt can help.
As with any medical treatment, there are risks involved. If you are working with a board certified acupuncture physician who has completed an in-depth study (usually over 3000 hours) these risks should be minimal due to understood contraindications (where Not to needle and what Not to do).

However, risks of acupuncture include hematoma (bruising at local site), temporary nerve sensations (tingling or sharper pain usually very short-lived), slight discomfort upon needle insertion, fatigue (should a treatment be too strong for the patient), and burns if heat treatment is used. None of the above are extremely common, but can happen. Of the above, the bruising is seen the most.

There are more serious complications, but these stem from physician error, should they be needling against regulations (too deep, too aggressively, and/or over areas of main arteries or areas contraindicated to needling). Thank you for your question.
Risks in acupuncture are minor as long as you have an experienced, licensed practitioner. You may experience soreness or some bruising, but that should be it.
Yes, needles have some risk. You must have sufficient anatomical knowledge. May damage the internal organs. But if you only use your finger pressure, there's not any risk.
There are no ill effects with acupressure when applied by a licensed acupuncturist. There will be no change.
Acupuncture is incredibly effective in reducing muscle tension. I can honestly say it’s most of what I treat. I would suggest making sure that the acupuncturist you find is licensed by the NCCAOM and has at least a couple years of good experience under their belt. If they are properly licensed there should be no risks.
Yes, acupuncture treatment has certain risks. It may kill a person if you point a needle to a wrong point. But a good acupuncturist knows where to point and which points are dangerous. Generally speaking, most points that reduce some tension of the muscles are not dangerous, so you do not need to worry about it.
The major risks are needling into the lungs, other organs, or arteries, but any licensed acupuncturist will know about all the risks and proper needle insertion to avoid any of these areas. Usually, if one places a needle where there is pain, it will help the pain, but a skilled acupuncturist, one who is trained to understand the whole medical philosophy and theory about the meridian systems and relationship between the organ systems will be able to put together a very effective needle prescription not only to help the condition being treated, but also to aid in finding the root cause of the problem.
There are risks walking across the street. So, seeking an experienced professional Acupuncturist minimizes the risks.
There are risks, but are minimized to a drop of blood or a bruise. There could be minimal effects to the wrong point used. But, as a trained Chinese Medicine Provider we know what the effects will be and wouldn't choose the wrong point. In your case, some cupping and muscle work might benefit you the most. A detailed exam would be best to know. Thanks!