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Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is one of the safest medical treatments, both conventional and complementary, on offer in the UK.

 

Two surveys conducted independently of each other and published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 concluded that the risk of a serious adverse reaction to acupuncture is less than 1 in 10,000. This is far less than many orthodox medical treatments.

One survey was of traditional acupuncturists and the other of doctors who practise acupuncture. A total of 66,000 treatments were reviewed altogether, with only a handful of minor and transient side effects recorded.

A 2003 survey of 6,000 patients of acupuncture produced almost identical figures.

There are very few side effects from acupuncture when practised by a fully qualified practitioner of traditional acupuncture. Any minor side effects that do occur, such as dizziness or bruising around needle points, are mild and self-correcting.

When you receive treatment from a BAcC registered acupuncturist you can be confident that your wellbeing and safety is at the heart of everything your practitioner does. The following assurances are BAcC standard:

  • BAcC members have completed a first-degree-level training or equivalent in traditional acupuncture including substantial elements of western anatomy, physiology and pathology
  • your BAcC acupuncturist will record all relevant details of your health condition and your medical history before treatment commences. Occasionally, based on this information, he or she may refer you to your GP for further investigation or medical treatment
  • your BAcC acupuncturist uses only pre-sterilised single-use needles which are safely disposed of after your treatment
  • all treatments are carried out in accordance with exemplary professional standards developed by the British Acupuncture Council and detailed in the BAcC Codes of Safe Practice and of Professional Conduct
  • the treatment room and all equipment must conform to standards laid out in the BAcC Code of Safe Practice and in nearly all cases have also been approved by local authority environmental health officers
  • BAcC members have full medical malpractice and public/product liability insurance cover.

The BAcC is aware of the practice of self-needling, especially for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and are taught limited but effective treatment to minimise the side-effects of the drug therapy. However, some places now appear to routinely hand out needles to patients for the purpose of self-treatment at home. The BAcC has considerable reservations about the widespread use of self-needling unless patients are properly taught how to avoid injury by using equipment which is appropriate for self-treatment and how to maintain rigorous health and safety standards for their own protection and for the protection of their families. Treatment from a properly trained and qualified practitioner is the best guarantee of safe and effective treatment.

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