Other Adverse Reactions of Acupuncture

| February 8, 2010 | 0 Comments | 175 views

A range of other adverse events has been documented which are perhaps less serious than those documented here. These include bleeding on withdrawal of the needle (Chung, 1980), bruising at the site of insertion (Redfearne, 1991; Tuke, 1979), depression, insomnia, increased pain, burns from moxibustion (Bensoussan and Myers, 1996), and fainting (Chen et al., 1990; Rajanna, 1983; Verma and Khamesra, 1989). Cases of skin reaction to metals have also been described (Castelain et al., 1987; Fisher 1976; Tanii et al., 1991) which can be avoided by using stainless steel needles without chrome and nickel.

One of the most frequently reported side effects is drowsiness, which may have implications for those who drive following treatment. One study (Brattberg, 1986) found that 56% of patients would have been at risk of an accident had they driven after treatment. The author speculated that this drowsiness might be the result of a fall in blood pressure or blood sugar, or the release of endogenous opiates, but that it would be impossible to predict who would experience it. Hence it was advised that, as with medication which might induce fatigue, patients should be warned against driving a car immediately after receiving acupuncture treatment. The study did not mention patients’ concurrent medication however, and whether such medication may have contributed to or enhanced acupuncture drowsiness (Rampes, 1998). The Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists advises their members in their Code of Ethics and Practice to recommend to their patients that they should not drive after treatment, until they recover from any drowsiness.

The risk of indirect adverse events such as misdiagnosis or risk of omission has been discussed (Ernst,1995) and needs to be addressed since it has implications for training, practice and health care delivery mechanisms. Since the extent of the problem is difficult to quantify due to its very nature, precautionary measures must be taken to reduce the risk. Practitioners should receive sufficient training to enable them to know the jurisdiction of their practice and its limitations. This is essential in order to prevent the application of inappropriate treatments (BMA, 1993). Acupuncturists should also encourage their patients to inform their GPs that they are receiving acupuncture treatment. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (1989) proposed that the undetected presence of a serious pathology by a practitioner of acupuncture is probably the most important of risks. Mills (1996) advocates the provision of a level of orthodox diagnostic training equivalent to that received by medical practitioners to counteract this possibility. A system of quantifying the risk is required in order to end the current state of speculation.

Practitioners should consider the potential for interactions between adverse reactions to acupuncture and adverse reactions to orthodox drugs being taken at the time of treatment. For example, acupuncturists should have some awareness of drugs that cause drowsiness, since overall drowsiness experienced by the patient after acupuncture treatment may be exacerbated. The importance of acupuncture practitioners finding out their patients’ medical histories and general practitioners knowing about their patients’ use of acupuncture is paramount to the avoidance of such situations.


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