Acupuncture is a healing art based in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncturists apply slim needles to specific points of the body to restore a balanced flow of vital energy, or "qi." As the procedure involves pricking through the skin, in some cases it results in minor surface side effects, such as bleeding or bruising. Consult with your doctor before seeking acupuncture for a particular illness or condition.
In some cases, acupuncture may cause slight bruising, one of the few side effects of the technique. A small bruise may form around the location where the needle pierced your skin. However, according to the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College Berkeley, acupuncture should not result in large bruises, swelling, lasting pain or severe pain, when performed correctly. Monica Bloch Kaderali, a licensed and practicing acupuncturist, estimates that small bruises may last for up to several days, but are typically painless.
Other Side Effects
Slight bruising is the worst side effect that you're likely to experience from acupuncture. Mayo Clinic describes other potential side effects as bleeding and soreness. In a 2001 survey of 30,000 acupuncture consultations, the "British Medical Journal" found adverse side effects happened in one out of 10,000 cases. Of the 43 significant side effects recorded in the trial, all but two cleared up within one week of treatment. In one case, side effects lasted for two weeks and in one case, for several weeks. The researchers determined that none of the side effects were serious.
Finding a Competent Acupuncturist
The survey of side effects published in the "British Medical Journal" drew from a pool of 78 acupuncturists, of which, 61 percent were also medical doctors, 39 percent were physiotherapists and 71 percent had been practicing for at least five years. In the United States, acupuncturists usually need to receive state licensure to practice. When seeking acupuncture treatment, ask your medical provider for references or find a local practitioner through one of the national or statewide professional organizations. Many acupuncturists are also medical doctors or hold additional medical qualifications.
While acupuncture has relatively little incidence of negative side effects or interactions with other courses of treatment, it isn't appropriate for everybody. If you have a pacemaker, a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medications, consult with your doctor before seeking any acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture may also be inadvisable during pregnancy, as it may stimulate labor in some cases and result in premature delivery.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture: An Introduction
- Monica Bloch Kaderali, M.S., L.Ac. Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine: Frequently Asked Questions
- "British Medical Journal;" Adverse Events Following Acupuncture; Adrian White; May 2001
- MayoClinic.com; Acupuncture for Back Pain?; J. D. Bartleson; March 2010
- MayoClinic.com; Acupuncture: Risks; December 2009