I like to tell my patients that there are no "stupid" questions when it comes to acupuncture. As mainstream as this medicine is slowly becoming, it is still exotic and unfamiliar to many. I've had a number of questions about the safety of acupuncture lately, so I thought that I would answer them in today's blog post: 1. Do you ever reuse needles? Never. Each needle is removed from a sterile package, inserted into the skin, then removed and placed into a biohazard container when its job is done. Once my biohazard containers fill up, they are sent to a medical waste disposal company for destruction.
2. Can cupping cause blood clots? Since we acupuncturists spend a lot of time talking about "blood stagnation", it's easy to confuse the Western and Chinese philosophies about blood. In our medicine, blood stagnation can lead to an astonishing number of symptoms, including pain and fatigue. If I say that you have blood stagnation, this does NOT mean that your health is in danger. It simply means that we want things to flow more smoothly in your body, energetically speaking. Of course, once you start things moving energetically, physical issues are resolved as well.
3. Can you puncture an organ with acupuncture? Generally speaking, the needles only go into the skin from 1/4-1/2 inch. (We may do much deeper needling for musculo-skeletal issues, however). There is plenty of muscle and fat between the needle and the most of the organs. In the case of the organs that ARE more accessible (such as the lungs), we acupuncturists are very well-trained to know the areas that should not be needled. As long as your acupuncturist is licensed, he or she will know the areas that are safe to needle deeply.
4. Is electro-acupuncture dangerous? Electro-acupuncture is done mostly for cases of pain. In this treatment, an electrical current is added to the needles, which adds extra stimulation. This stimulation can feel fairly strong, but it is not dangerous. We don't use this type of treatment with patients who have pacemakers or seizure disorders, however.
Do YOU have any questions about the safety of acupuncture? If so, send them in!