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Side effects of acupuncture


I recieved acupuncture 6 weeks ago by chinese acupuncturist he placed needles in my arms, chest ,stomach, hands and bottoms of legs… i didnt feel any pain or sensations at the time but shortly after i experienced some burning and tingling sensations all over my body and have done ever since the treatment. The burning has eased slightly but the tingling remains from head to toe ! I went back to the practitioner but he doesnt seem to think it was caused by the acupuncture but i never had any of these symtoms before this.

Would you have any idea why this reaction had occured ?


How long exactly is “shortly after”? And when you say the “tingling remains” - how long has this been? What were you seeing the acupuncturist for?

Any type of reaction like this is very uncommon, but the strongest possibility would be an allergic reaction to the sterlization agent on the needles. If it were this, it would be possible to get a mild reaction each treatment - many practitioners have different brands of needles on the off chance that this type of reaction happens to a patient.

When you say you “went back to the practitioner” - did you get another treatment from them or just talk to them? If you got another treatment did the same thing happen again? If you didn’t get another treatment, why not?


From the non-US spelling of center, “centre” - I can tell you are outside of the US. Unfortunately in many countries acupuncture is somewhat unregulated so it is hard to tell if the practitioner whom you are seeing is truly qualified. Being Chinese and having years of experience unfortunately isn’t always proper qualifications. That said, while it may be largely ineffective, acupuncture from poorly trained acupuncturists is rarely, if ever, problematic (besides not getting results). Side effects from acupuncture properly applied from trained and, if available, licensed practitioners are extremely rare and limited to mostly insignificant swellings, bruising, etc.

What you are describing is something that I’ve never seen in many years of clinical practice with literally thousands of patients.

With some Chinese practitioners (and some western ones, albeit far fewer in number), strong needle manipulation and/or heavy handed needling techniques (deeper, etc.) are common. Some of these deeper needling techniques, particularly if done improperly or with poor point location can cause irritation to local nerves and/or tissue. So in a treatment with many of these techniques used on many points you could end up with fairly systemic feeling reactions. In general, these would fade (as would most soft tissue injuries) in a few days up to probably 12 weeks depending on what happened.

This question, however, comes up in various forms somewhat often on our forums. Another longer response of mine that you might find interesting is here.

In general for what you were seeking help for acupuncture should be quite helpful and it is generally a very enjoyable, relaxing and effective experience. While this is incredibly biased admittedly and many of the practitioners who I consider at the top of the field are in fact Chinese, I still generally advise people to see the most fully trained non Chinese practitioner they can find - particularly so in countries with no or limited regulation. This is because non-Chinese practitioners are less likely to use strong needle manipulation techniques which I consider both unnecessary and counter-productive (my own bias). And the Chinese practitioners whom I consider are at the top of their game do not use these techniques either. Along those lines, I also recommend to stay away from anyone who is not a fully trained Chinese Medicine professional (this includes PT’s, Chiropractors, Physio’s, MD’s, etc. who “practice” acupuncture). Now some of these people are well trained and licensed in both fields and they are fine, perhaps great, but many use one license to dabble in the world of acupuncture and 9 times out of 10 when we hear of these types of issues it was a non-acupuncturist doing the acupuncture.

Truth be told you’d have to a complete hack or extremely negligent to cause harm to anyone with acupuncture. But it is possible, unlikely, but possible. In your case once things settle down, you should be fine. Permanent damage of any kind is nearly impossible to cause. I would suggest some massages with heavier oils like sesame and/or epsom salt baths both of which are calming to nerve irritation.


I already gave you my honest opinion and there is not much more I can say other than what I have said. I can, however, point out a few things that might ease your mind.

First, when you say “still no signs of improving” - you actually have improved - you yourself mention that there is less burning sensation than there was initially and my guess is the tingling is probably less and/or coming and going in intensity if you watch and it is likely moving along. Are you absolutely sure that it is exactly the same intensity in exactly all the same areas with all the same frequency from when it started? If it isn’t, you are improving - not the completely better level of improvement you want, but improving.

I know it may be slow, but you simply have to be patient if you are not going to consult with professionals and obtain proper treatment.

Second, while I greatly appreciate your concern and am sorry you have these issues, it has only been 9 days since I wrote my last response. In that response I mention that if there is some sort of nerve irritation it can take up to 12 weeks before you see significant improvement.

Personally, I would see a different acupuncturist and let them work it out, ideally one who also practices Chinese herbal medicine. There are some herbal formulas which may be helpful for you to calm things down (and your mind), but you really need to see a practitioner to get the proper prescriptions. Ideally the practitioner would practice either Japanese acupuncture and/or use mild needling techniques (generally if they treat a fair amount of children this will be the case).

To guide you further, there are many details I would need to know to truly help you, that just can’t be discussed on an internet forum. That said, I’m sure a competent practitioner can help you and that there is no way this is permanent. And I’m not saying this is any way to put this back on you even though it may sound that way - but it is very likely that it is aggravated simply by your justifiable but ultimately unproductive anxiety about it. I can assure you from one treatment there is nothing permanent, it’s just not possible - certainly not the systemic type of response you are describing.

As a general statement about this and not specifically calling you out - but because this is a public forum - It’s always interesting to me that on one hand people will completely disregard acupuncture as a fantasy that couldn’t possibly help anything, yet when something goes wrong they give it this supreme level of power over your body that can create irrevocable changes in a matter of minutes - both extremes are just simply not plausible.


hi Amy - just wanted to add a comment, as I’m kinda in the same scenario - except the issues for me began when I became very sick, and they persisted even after I got better. Reading too much on the internet is a sure-fire way to stress yourself out–I went through the same thing–you want to find out a way to solve the issue, but the vast chaotic feedback loop of the 'net eventually increases the symptoms – the brain is absorbing too much! Anxiety seems to be a major contributor to this peculiar symptoms.

I can say that, with the right herbs and a bit of treatment, it seems my condition is lessening / improving, albeit much slower than I like. I try to focus on how much better it is overall than it was a while back (my condition has lasted around 5 months).


wow guys… i haven’t ever thought that acupuncture does even have side effects because i only thought that drugs have side effects and because of that i stopped searching for pharmacy reviews anymore… and not talking about these side effects. thanks for sharing info OP and thanks everyone else for the information. i found it really useful. thanks a lot for everythig guys. would you mind if i am going to ask some other questions in the future??

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