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13 Side Effects of Acupuncture, What to Expect In a Treatment

Acupuncture has more positive effects than negative ones, but it’s still important to understand the good and the bad so you can make decisions that support how you want to care for your wellbeing.

Not much is written about the side effects of acupuncture. There is still much to be learned from studying this medicinal practice but some of the negative effects we’ve witnessed have to do with a worsening of symptoms, soreness and fatigue. Other side effects include many positive results that a patient may not have been counting on. Here’s a list of potential side effects, both good and bad.

When many people think about side effects they tend to focus on the negative. However acupuncture treatments can have many positive side effects as well. Acupuncture at it’s core is about bringing balance to our bodies energy. The collection of procedures in modern acupuncture utilizes needling in order to stimulate certain points on the body. Tapping into neuroplasticity, the notion that over time neurological activity can be re-programmed in positive ways. The end result is that acupuncture prompts re-learning responses and root healing. All of this calms the amygdala, which is our brain’s seat of anxiety and stress. some of the more positive side effects get quoted repeatedly by patients after their sessions.

Better Sleep

Many people complain about not getting enough sleep, poor sleep, or flat out insomnia. Most people understand that their sleep is directly related to their health and without good sleep; our health will be adversely affected. Most Acupuncturists have had patients report that they are better able to sleep after having acupuncture treatments. It’s not surprising that sedation of the amygdala during an acupuncture session creates a sense of calm and wellbeing that promotes better sleep.

More Energy

People who sleep better will naturally have more energy. Acupuncture will also give people a euphoric effect and many times people will report having more energy to conduct activities such as going to the gym, bike riding, or an alertness feeling. This of course has the benefits increasing productivity, more activity, and being better able to focus on tasks.

Mental Clarity

Mental clarity is another beneficial side effect of acupuncture that is closely related to better sleep and more energy. When people have better mental clarity they tend to feel less irritable, better able to work with other people, and often will be more productive in the work place. Additionally because people will feel less pain due to acupuncture treatments, the overall better general feeling that is associated with pain relief tends to help people experience better mental clarity than what they would otherwise.

Better Digestion

Many people will seek acupuncture treatment to relieve symptoms of nausea. When our digestive system is working properly we will not only feel less sick to our stomachs, but we will overall have less digestive related issues. This may include conditions such as gas, bloating, or gastrointestinal pain. Heartburn and indigestion are also reduced through acupuncture treatment because of better working digestion.

Less Stress

Better sleep, better digestion, and overall mental clarity will lead to reduced stress. This is for a very good reason because if we aren’t in pain or are feeling overall generally well we will experience less stress in our lives. Having less stress is critical for overall health and wellness and acupuncture will assist with better health by reducing stress through better sleep and more energy.

Reduced Depression

Some studies have shown that receiving acupuncture helps with relieving symptoms of depression. Although the link is not conclusive, patients who combined acupuncture treatment along with medication or counseling found relief from depression systems faster than patients who did not receive acupuncture. Although the same studies found that both groups of patients had similar levels of depression relief, the people who combined acupuncture with their treatments found faster relief than those who didn’t. Most people would agree that is a good thing.


Although acupuncture is generally beneficial overall, there are a few negative side effects that you should be informed about just in case you experience them after treatment. If you do experience these symptoms you should consult your acupuncturist before another treatment.


While most people find that they have more energy after a treatment, sometimes people report feeling a bit fatigued. If you feel fatigued, you may want to take it easy, as much as your schedule permits, for the remainder of the day.  Take a bath and go to bed early. In the morning you will feel the benefits of your acupuncture treatment.


This is not very common but occasionally it does happen.  In approximately  2000 needle insertions, over various patients over a number of weeks, only 1 for 2 of these needles will cause a bruise.  If bruising occurs, the best thing to do is apply Arnica gel and the bruise will fade within a day.


Sometimes after a treatment a patient can feel a little light headed.   You will want to make sure that you do not get up too quickly from the acupuncturist table after receiving treatment, and make sure that you eat a light snack before your session.

Emotional Release

People sometimes feel an emotional release during an acupuncture session. Why is this?  Often our physical discomfort has its roots in emotional upset or trauma.  By gently moving the patient’s energy, emotional blocks can move and a patients may have a cathartic cry.


Acupuncture is extremely powerful medicine.  Knowing there can be some side effects like fatigue, bruising, light headedness can help us feel more prepared for the experience.  I would love to hear your thoughts. leave a comment below and share this post with others. I promise to respond.

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  • cloudskimmer

    Unfortunately, this article is by a practitioner, and fails to include the adverse effects of acupuncture. Acupuncture needles can be very painful; some people experience severe pain from the needles. Infection is a very real possibility, since practitioners don’t practice sterile technique. The skin is not cleaned prior to needle insertion and the acupuncturist’s hands are ungloved… and who knows when they washed their hands last. The needles aren’t examined after being removed, so if a piece of the needle is left behind, it won’t be noticed until it causes problems. None of us want a piece of stainless steel worming it’s way around our bodies, and this is a risk of acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture can cause nausea and vomiting. And the worst effect is that of organ perforation. Patients have died from having their lungs or heart penetrated by an acupuncture needle. Since the acupuncturist has no imaging to guide the needles, they won’t know whether they have perforated an organ, and due to lack of medical training won’t know what to do it it happens. An Olympic athlete from Canada had her career ruined when her acupuncturist perforated her lung. She had to undergo major surgery and is still suffering.

    As studies have improved by using retractable needles and blinding the treatment groups, it is clear that acupuncture is just an elaborate placebo. Its effects are fleeting and subjective, and have no effect on the course of any disease. Since there are no positive effects, the only possible permanent effects are harmful. With only downsides, and no upside, it doesn’t make sense to use acupuncture.

    • Zlarp

      That’s absolutely stupid.

      Acupuncturists do practice sterile treatment, they do wear gloves, they do examine you, and if you think you can have your organs perforated by a needle that goes one milimieter into your skin then you’re a special kind of moron.