Acupuncture is very safe. The average liability coverage
for an acupuncturist is about $600 per year, while primary care physicians pay an average of $12,000 per
year. That’s a 20:1 difference. While this may not translate into exactly a 20 to 1 difference in safety, a
visit to an acupuncturist is at least as safe as a visit to your doctor, if not safer.
Acupuncture needles are extremely safe, because they are pre-sterilized,
individually packaged, and disposable. Every practitioner gets extensive training in anatomy so as to avoid
accidentally inserting a needle in a place that can cause damage.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed
practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single
use by qualified practitioners only.
Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the
FDA in light of the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used. Still,
complications have resulted from inadequate sterilization of needles and from improper delivery of treatments.
Practitioners should use a new set of disposable needles taken from a sealed package for each patient and should
swab treatment sites with alcohol or another disinfectant before inserting needles. When not delivered properly,
acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections and punctured organs.
The most common complication of treatment is a small bruise
or a drop of blood when the needle is removed. Any medical technique involves some risk. Properly performed,
acupuncture presents minimal hazard when compared to drug regimens or surgical