Acupuncture/ pressure

Safety of acupuncture in Germany

Charite University Medical Center, in Berlin, Germany reports its experience.

First, the details.

  • 229,230 patients who received acupuncture for chronic osteoarthritis pain of the knee or hip, low back pain, neck pain or headache, allergic rhinitis, asthma, or dysmenorrhea were monitored.
  • They received on average 10 acupuncture treatments.
  • After treatment, all patients reported their adverse events associated with acupuncture.

And, the results.

  • 9% of patients reported at least one side effect.
  • 2% reported a side effect that required treatment.
  • The most common side effect was bleedings or bruising (ecchymosis; 6% of patients, 58% of all adverse effects).
  • Pain (2%) and vegetative symptoms (insomnia, loss of appetite; 1%) were also reported.
  • 2 patients experienced a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) — 1 needed hospital treatment, the other observation).
  • The longest duration of a side effect was 180 days (nerve lesion of the lower limb).

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Acupuncture provided by physicians is a relatively safe treatment.”

The incidence of side effects reported in this study is similar to the 10% risk reported 2 years ago by a group of UK doctors, physiotherapists, and acupuncture practitioners.

Side effects related to acupuncture are less commonly reported in Japan. According to 1 study, bruising was uncommon (17 patients out of more than 65,000). Failure to remove all the needles (27 times) was most commonly reported.

5/8/09 17:41 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.