Possible Adverse Effects of Acupuncture
Bruising: As acupuncture and dry needling involves inserting a sharp object into the body, there is the risk that small blood vessels may be punctured. This will cause some bruising and is very similar to the kind of bruising you can get after you have a blood test. This is quite common and nothing to be concerned about.
Haematoma: If a significant blood vessel is punctured, a haematoma (or blood lump) can form. This is very similar to a sporting 'cork' in a muscle. It will settle down over 2-3 days or up to 2-3 weeks depending on size. Early compression will limit the amount of bleeding.
Vasovagal reaction: This is a rare, uncontrollable reaction to needles that affects some people. When a needle is inserted, a variety of responses may be elicited. This range includes passing out or losing consciousness, mild seizure (that is completely different to epilepsy), loss of bladder control momentarily or a feeling of intense disorientation and confusion. If you know you have this kind of reaction to needles, you must inform your practitioner prior to consenting to acupuncture.
Pneumothorax: This complication can only occur where needling is performed near the lungs. If a needle is inserted too deep into the body near the lungs, there is a risk that the lung may be punctured. At Advantage Healthcare and Physiotherapy, we undergo specific training in dry needling and acupuncture to ensure safety. This training is ongoing within the practice as well as with external training organizations. No cases of pneumothorax have been identified from this needling.
Stuck needle: This rare occurrence involves the smooth or striated muscle of the body contracting around the needle, making it impossible to withdraw the needle. Many treatments can relax these muscles so the needle may be removed. At worst, it takes time to remove the needle.
Infection: As acupuncture pierces the skin, the body's defense against infection, there is a risk of infection. This risk is greater if you are immune suppressed (ie- from medications, chemotherapy, disease). At Advantage Healthcare and Physiotherapy, all needles are single use, sterile, disposable needles to minimize the risk of infection. We have specific protocols to deal with immune suppressed clients. We have special skin preparation to disinfect the skin prior to needling.
Broken Needle: This is an exceptionally rare complication. There are reports in the literature of broken needles during acupuncture treatment. If a needle breaks inside tissue, it may require surgical removal. Needle engineering standards are very high to pass Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) standards. There are specific protocols to deal with a broken needle that are followed at Advantage Healthcare and Physiotherapy.
Endocarditis: Heart lining irritation/infection may occur if there is a history of valve replacement and inappropriate skin preparation.