How safe is acupuncture?

How safe is acupuncture?

Wednesday February 24 2016

The ancient Chinese art of acupuncture has been practiced around the world for thousands of years, but how safe is it really?

Acupuncture involves trained professionals locating pressure points on the body to relieve stress and soothe pain by applying needles, meaning the risk of a sharps injury to both the patient and the acupuncturist is heightened simply due to the presence of a large number of needles.

Here, we take a look at the health benefits that acupuncture can offer, as well as how those who carry out the procedure can make sure they are lowering the risk of a needlestick injury when performing the practice.

The benefits of acupuncture

It has long been believed that acupuncture is able to cure pain and relieve muscle stress, but medical professionals opting for more traditional training routes have often disregarded these claims.

However, according to a study carried out by doctors at Georgetown University in Washington DC in 2015, acupuncture is indeed able to relieve pain.

The Daily Mail reported that the researchers performed acupuncture on rats, measuring their anxiety and stress levels to determine how much pain they were in.

It was found that following application of the specialist needles, the rats were significantly less stressed, which the scientists took to mean that their pain levels had also decreased.

Lead author of the study Dr Ladan Eshkevari commented: "The benefits of acupuncture are well known by those who use it, but such proof is anecdotal.

"This research, the culmination of a number of studies, demonstrates how acupuncture might work in the human body to reduce stress and pain, and potentially, depression."

There have been countless studies carried out to explore the health benefits of acupuncture over the years, with advocates of the treatment believing it can help to cure infertility, improve mental health illnesses and reduce the pain associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis and lower back problems.

Acupuncture sharps safety

A study carried out in 2001 by the British Acupuncture Council found that the risk of a patient suffering an adverse reaction to the treatment is less than one in 10,000, making it significantly safer than the majority of other medical procedures.

But how safe is it in terms of the risks around needlestick injuries and sharps safety?

The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP) states that patients can be reassured they are receiving safe care from acupuncturists who are registered with the body, as they are required to undergo safety checks and operate within strict hygiene guidelines.

However, with so many needles being used to carry out acupuncture, there is always going to be a risk of sharps injuries, meaning it is vital that acupuncturists are extremely vigilant and careful when it comes to administering and disposing of needles.

All acupuncture practices should have clearly marked sharps disposal bins and acupuncturists should wear surgical gloves at all times to prevent pricking their own skin when administering needles.

While it is believed that the ancient practice of acupuncture can relieve pain and stress around the body, failure to follow these safety guidelines could lead to the spread of potentially life-threatening conditions such as HIV and hepatitis C, causing even greater pain as a result.