Top 3 Side Effects of Acupuncture


Posted by julia

During an Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture is one of the safest treatments available with very few side effects. Acupuncture needles are sterile, disposable, thin, and stainless steel, so nothing is being injected. During an acupuncture treatment, the needles are placed in various areas throughout the body, usually in muscles, around joints, and superficial areas of the skin. Some needles you may feel more than others, but usually it feels like a light prick and then it dissipates. In areas where there is a lot of ‘qi’ or energy, you may feel heaviness, pressure, or a muscle spasm. Acupuncture is a very relaxing experience, and most people fall asleep during treatments.

Western Side Effects

As much as I love Western medicine, the side effects from some common medications are pretty scary. Let’s discuss. Side effects can include anything from liver damage to insomnia, weight gain, dizzyness, constipation or nausea. Ambien, a common sleeping pill, can cause sleepwalking, sleep driving, dizziness, coordination problems or burning or tingling in the hands, arm, or legs. Mirapex, used for Restless Leg Syndrome and Parkingson’s disease, can cause compulsive behavior in people like gambling, excessive sex or shopping. Permanent eye color change is a common side effect of glaucoma medication, which women are now using to make their eyelashes grow longer. Viagra, a drug used for erectile dysfunction, can cause color blindness or in rare cases brief or long-term total vision loss. Sometimes a medication can help the one symptom, but can cause other symptoms, which may also need a medication! As always, I try to do the least invasive first. Of course many people need medication for certain things, but if we can eliminate or lessen the dosage through natural means than we are doing pretty good.

Top 3 Side Effects of Acupuncture:

A Bruise

Acupuncture in certain areas like the face and hands are more common than bruises on less sensitive areas of the body. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s definitely possible. Bruising can be caused by needle depth / insertion, medications, patient’s iron levels, patient’s constitution, among many other things. Bruises are usually small and can last a few days. In practice, I find that women bruise more often than men, and bruising occurs more frequently during times of fatigue or stress. My favorite natural remedy for bruises is an internal or external form of arnica, which you can get at any natural health food store or pharmacy.

Muscle Soreness

I treat a lot of athletes for acute injuries, repetitive stress injuries, and pain. Tissues that have been injured are usually on a spectrum of being inflamed, tight, in spasm, stringy, or fibrous. When you needle muscles that have been compromised, there is a re-education period where the muscle is being lengthened, relaxed, and rebalanced to fire correctly. It is completely normal to get muscle soreness or to have a temporary increase of symptoms for 24-48 hours after a treatment. I usually recommend take a hot bath, to use a heating pad, and/or stretch the affected area that night. The soreness is similar to a heavy workout, which usually goes away in a day or two. The question of heat vs. ice comes up a lot. With acute injuries (24-72 hours) I recommend ice, and after that I recommend heat. Ice decreases acute inflammation in twisted ankles or inflamed tendons while heat promotes circulation and increases blood flow to the area. Everything you need to heal yourself is in your blood, so more blood to the area equals faster healing.

Acupuncture ‘Brain’

This isn’t a scientific term; but a reference I use to describe how people typically feel after acupuncture. It has such a profound effect on your nervous system that afterwards you feel extremely calm and relaxed. It almost feels like you went somewhere super deep or far away, and when you wake up you often forget where you are! Sometimes it feels like you’re not awake, but not sleeping, kind of in that really nice in-between state where everything is comfortable and really good. I recently read a study where fMRI results on the brain showed that brain activity can decrease up to 70% during acupuncture. By shutting off the brain for a little while, your body is able to heal better, calm the nervous system, which can decrease pain, anxiety, stress, among many other things.

They say that 90% of illnesses are stress-related, and one of acupuncture’s highlights is calming the nervous system. It is a fantastic treatment option because there are little to no side effects. The risk is low, the benefits are high, and the way you feel after a treatment is incredible.

Best in Health,


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