Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been used in China and neighbouring countries for thousands of years. This alternative treatment involves the insertion of fine and sterile needles into specific points on the skin using various techniques to restore balance and encourage the body to heal itself naturally.
Evidence of effectiveness of acupuncture
Based on several clinical trials, acupuncture may be beneficial for patients who are suffering from pain or other complaints if performed by a skilled and licensed practitioner.
The British National Health Services carried out several systematic reviews of studies done by the British Medical Acupuncture Society in March, 2005. Evidence found by the studies suggests that acupuncture can be useful in alleviating the pain caused by dental operation and chemotherapy treatment.
Regulations and laws for acupuncture practice
In Australia, a practitioner must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency before practicing this alternative treatment. There are also indirect laws that apply to acupuncture, and these include the following:
- Skin penetration regulations – needles used in acupuncture must be pre-sterilised and are for single use only.
- Poisoning on certain herbal substances – restricted access to certain herbs that are known to be toxic and may cause harm.
- Therapeutic claims – the government requires Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) for several products claiming to be sterile, including acupuncture needles. So, before a manufacturer can sell their needles, it must be included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
Choosing your acupuncturist
Acupuncture is a complex procedure, so it is essential that you only use a qualified and licensed acupuncturist. That is why all Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists have been required to register in the state of Victoria since 2000.
Risks of acupuncture
There are risks involved in every medical practice, including acupuncture. However, in the hands of an unlicensed and unskilled practitioner, the risks may even be more significant. Some of these issues may include:
- Allergic reactions – some herbs may cause a severe reaction to the skin, even leading to rashes. We need to understand that herbs can be as powerful as pharmaceutical medications and should be treated with caution and respect.
- Infection – If the needles are unsterile, bacteria may cause local infection at specific points on the skin. The patient can even contract HIV, hepatitis, or bloodborne diseases, especially if the needles are being reused.
- Side effects – acupuncture is known to produce significant changes in our nervous system, so it is essential to trigger the correct acupoints, or the result may cause more harm than good.
Whether you are experiencing stress, pain or illness, acupuncture may be beneficial and help to effectively alleviate the undesirable symptoms of your condition. However, be sure to choose an acupuncturist who is fully qualified, licenced, and experienced.