Introduction: Acupuncture is frequently used to treat chronic pain syndromes or other chronic diseases. Several hundred reports have been published of life-threatening adverse events after acupuncture. The aim of our study was to assess the adverse effects of acupuncture during a normal treatment routine.
Methods: Thirteen general practitioners and outpatient clinics and 16 other practitioners were included in a questionnaire survey in Germany. Patient gender and age, indications for and method of treatment, and adverse effects were documented by the therapists.
Results: Four hundred and nine patients receiving 3535 acupuncture treatment were included. Adverse effects were observed in 402 treatments (11.4%) in 153 different patients. The main side effects were slight haemorrhage (2.9%), haematoma (2.2%), dizziness (1%) and other systemic symptoms (2.7%). Other side effects mentioned (all below 1%) were fainting, nausea, prolonged DeQi effect (paraesthesia) and increase of pain. In one case, aphasia was reported lasting 1h after acupuncture.
Conclusion: Acupuncture has adverse effects, like any therapeutic approach. If it is used according to established safety rules and carefully at appropriate anatomic regions, it is a safe treatment method.