Acupuncture can sometimes be a little intimidating for people, mainly because it is not embedded in our culture like it is in China or other asian countries. But there is no reason to be afraid of acupuncture, it could really change your life and help you to see and understand your body from a different perspective.
1. Acupuncture is safe
Over the past 20 years, the safety of acupuncture has been studied extensively. Most studies were conducted in Europe and all of the studies came to the same conclusion that acupuncture is a very safe therapy when performed by a qualified and competent practitioner.
The most significant studies are found in the UK and in Germany. One study, which was commissioned by the British Acupuncture Council, comprised the audit of 34,000 treatments (Mac Pherson et al., 2001), another one was an audit of adverse reactions among 66,229 patients (White, 2006). Finally, in Germany, an observational study was carried out among 229,230 patients (Witt et al., 2009). These are the three main studies that are cited today and all of them come to the same conclusion: acupuncture is a safe therapy under the right hands. So, be sure to choose well your acupuncturist by checking that he/she is a member of a professional body as they only accept properly trained and insured members.
2. Modern acupuncture needles are safe
Nowadays, modern acupuncture needles are as safe as they can be. In the past, acupuncture needles were re-usable and sterilised in-between patients. This presented some risks. Firstly, using an autoclave could not guarantee total sterilisation so a risk of cross-infection remained and secondly, when needles were re-used again and again, they could develop weaknesses and become brittle.
Today, only single-use sterilised needles are allowed. Modern single-use needles are sterile, very thin, flexible and strong which greatly reduces the risk of adverse events and removes the risk of cross-infection between patients.
3. Your acupuncturist knows what he/she is doing
Every acupuncturist who has been properly trained knows how to locate and needle points and the most commonly used points are perfectly safe. Sometimes I see patients who are at first worried that a needle could harm a tendon, a nerve, an artery etc. There are two reasons not to be worried about this. Acupuncture points lie in-between the structures in the interstitial spaces and that’s where the acupuncturist is aiming to insert the needles. Secondly, these structures are quite tough. Since the acupuncturist is inserting needles gently, in the event of coming close a structure, it will simply be pushed aside.
Now, there are some areas of the body that demand more caution but a properly trained acupuncturist will know how to needle these points safely. Keep in mind that for an acupuncturist, your safety is always the primary concern.
4. The right sensation is a tingling sensation
Sometimes I see patients who worry that acupuncture could be painful. Although sensations can vary from one patient to another due to differences in pain threshold, most people report that it is not painful. Instead, most feel a tingling sensation or a numbness travelling gently across the part of the body needled. Some points are stronger than others but a good acupuncturist will adapt needle manipulation to the patient’s pain threshold, their reactions and their constitution.
The needles are also extremely thin, as thin as a hair. At least ten acupuncture needles will fit into a standard injection needle. So this means that the aggression to the skin (which causes the sensation of pain) is greatly reduced. Don’t forget that an acupuncturist’s aim is to reduce pain and discomfort not the opposite. Don’t hesitate to communicate and let your therapist know what sensations you are feeling. The therapist will be able to adapt their needling technique, allowing trust to develop between each other.
5. Acupuncture is a natural therapy
Acupuncture doesn’t involve the use of chemicals. It only works by stimulating and directing the body to heal itself. This might sound unusual because our Western medicine doesn’t consider this aspect of healing. Instead, Western medicine relies on medication to heal the body. However, chemicals introduced in our bodies through medication can have side effects and sometimes, more medication is necessary to help alleviate the side effects of the primary medication. Acupuncture is also sometimes used for this purpose. Chemicals will also have to be eliminated by our own body. When too many are used, they can put pressure on the liver and kidneys and some chemicals can remain stored in the body for years. When using a natural therapy, you don’t have this problem and getting acupuncture could be a great gift for yourself!
Cyrille Bonnard (B.Sc.) is a qualified acupuncturist working in Dublin city centre. His passion for Chinese Medicine has brought him several times to China to further his knowledge and expertise.
If you have found this article interesting and you are ready to make the next step, call us on 083 402 9467 to book your appointment today.
MacPherson, H., Thomas, K., Walter, S., Fitter, M. (2001), ‘The York acupuncture safety study: the prospective survey of 34000 treatments by traditional acupuncturists’, The British medical journal, Vol. 3, September, pp 486- 487
White, A. (2006), ‘The safety of acupuncture- evidence from the UK’, Acupuncture in medicine, Vol. 24, pp 53-57
White, A., Ernst, E. (2000), ‘Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review’, The American journal of medicine, Vol. 110, Issue 6, pp 481-485
Witt, C.M., Pach, D., Brinkhaus, B., Wruck, K., Tag, B., Mank, S., Willich, S.N. (2009), ‘Safety of acupuncture: results of a prospective observational study with 229,230 patients and introduction of a medical information and consent form’, Research in complimentary medicine, Vol. 16, No.2, pp 91-97