A few words of support..
This blog is in response to comments on this blog https://www.migrainesavvy.com/acupuncture-for-migraines.html by Holly Hazen.
On behalf of acupuncturists, I am sorry about the harshness and fearful overreaction displayed in the comments about your blog. Who knew acupuncturists are so afraid of acupuncture?!
As a side note to the profession: THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE TOO EXPENSIVE! Please start thinking about the future of the acupuncture profession and lower your prices. Acupuncture works best when people can afford to get it often and regularly.
Back on track: Acupuncture is very, very safe. (Check out this link for more info. https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-safety-of-acupuncture/is-acupuncture-safe.html) In addition, the points you suggest are very safe as well. I would like to address a few of the fears brought up in the comment thread of your blog.
Fear #1 -Acupuncture is extremely complex and requires 3-5 years of education to be safe and even then the practitioner must exercise caution because they could to the “wrong” point, treatment, etc.
Chinese herbal medicine is indeed complex and deals with many materials that could be harmful to the body if performed incorrectly. Acupuncture is another matter.
The acupuncture school I attended is from the Worsely 5 element tradition. Before acupuncture education became formalized in the west, Dr. Worsely was reported to say that all he had to teach could be taught in a year. I can personally attest that my 3 years in acupuncture school seemed like one years’ worth of content stretched out over 3 years and it is my opinion that 1 year of education is enough to ensure that the acupuncture practitioner is able to safely administer treatments.
There are many different traditions of acupuncture. They have their own rules and protocols. These different styles often disagree with each other on basics like point location, needling technique, depth of needling, number of needles, length of retention, and the function of individual points. The funny thing is that they all work. Even the modern experimental practice of Sham Acupuncture has shown itself to be effective. My point is that there is no singular Right Way to do acupuncture. It appears that acupuncture theory is full of fears and taboos that do not materialize in the real world.
My intention with this blog is not to train acupuncturists over the internet but to dispel some myths and fears that are utterly false. The best way to learn acupuncture is by directly observing and working with a skilled practitioner. What I am talking about is apprenticeship.
Fear #2 -Infection is a serious risk.
Infection is extremely rare. I have personally done 10,000 treatments over the past 2.5 years without single incident of infection. Acupuncture pins are very fine and solid core so they do minimal damage to the surrounding tissue as they go in. It is a mistake to compare the safety of acupuncture needles with hypodermic needles.
To further reduce infection risks:
1- Acupuncture pins must be pre-sterilized and single use.
2- Proper hand hygiene is a must. Wash with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
Fear #3 -Nerve Damage is common.
Nerve damage is also very rare. You might “tickle” a nerve now and then causing an brief electric feeling and the area may temporarily “feel funny”. This usually lasts 30 seconds to 20min but on rare occasion it may last a few days.
Experienced acupuncturists may touch a nerve now and then as each person’s anatomy varies slightly.
Tips on avoiding nerves or minimizing discomfort:
1- If your patient gets a shocking feeling then back the pin out some until it is comfortable.
2- Avoid vigorous needle techniques especially on points that are not very fleshy (like LI4).
3- Avoid deep needling in the beginning especially in non-fleshy areas. Use tubes, tap them in and don’t insert them much deeper.
Fear # 4 -You might cause a hematoma
The most common side effect of acupuncture is bleeding or bruising. If the person has a clotting disorder or is on anticoagulant therapy the risk of bleeding or bruising increases but not to the point that it becomes dangerous.
Bleeding and bruising happens even with skilled acupuncturists because vascular anatomy just like nervous anatomy varies from person to person. Yes, the major arteries, veins, and nerves are largely predictable but the smaller ones often are not.
A hematoma occurs when a blood vessel has been damaged by a pin. This usually becomes noticeable when the pin is taken out. A drop or two of blood may come out and then the tissue may begin to swell. This often looks like a small marble under the skin and occurs because there is bleeding under the skin. The best thing to do is to apply pressure for a few minutes with a cotton ball. The hematoma will have gone down by then and should not reappear. You can expect a bruise to form there. It is usually just discoloration and should not be painful. The homeopathic remedy arnica gel is helpful for reducing the bruise.
Hematomas can be quite large at times but these are rare and are usually the result of a larger vessel being punctured. Ways to avoid this are:
1- Don’t needle deep.
2- Don’t needle vigorously.
3- Select points on the arms, legs, scalp and ears.
Fear # 5 -You can puncture an organ or the spinal cord
This is also very rare. The most likely organ you can puncture is the lung and this could cause a pneumothorax or a collapse of the lung. With thin or elderly patients, the amount of tissue between the skin and the lung can be unexpectedly small. A pneumothorax is an emergency situation that requires prompt medical care and is marked by sharp chest pain on the effected side and mild or extreme shortness of breath.
The best way to avoid organ puncture is to select points on the arms, legs, scalp and ears (AKA distal needling). If you do needle the torso or neck then don’t needle deep or vigorously. Luckily, good results can be obtained with distal needling and a gentle needle technique.
Fear #6 -Forbidden Points with Pregnancy
There are a few points that are generally agreed to avoid during pregnancy for fear of causing a miscarriage. They are LI4, Sp6, GB21, Sp6, UB60-67 and any abdominal and back points below the umbilicus.
Some acupuncturists question the validity of this list on the grounds that acupuncture can’t really force the body to do something it doesn’t naturally want to do. Further study is needed to determine if these points really are unsafe. With pregnancy it is best to err on the side of caution so it is best to avoid them with pregnant women until they are ready to deliver.
I hope that this can contribute to the public knowledge of acupuncture. Acupuncture is a very safe and effective technique that can be safely administered with some basic knowledge. Once again the best way to learn acupuncture is with the guidance of a skilled and experienced acupuncturist.
If I missed a common fear or you would like to expand or respond to one I wrote about please chime in!
This information is not only based on my personal experience of doing 10,000 treatments with 1,500 people in 2.5 years but also on the experience of many other POCA punks who have been just as busy or busier and over a longer time period. Think tens of thousands of patients and hundreds of thousands of treatments over several years. Support POCAtech! www.pocatech.org