Acupuncture: Potential uses, risks and side effects

In this 4-minute video, Enoch Ho discusses what conditions acupuncture is thought to work for, the potential risks, and other considerations when undergoing acupuncture treatment.



What's the bottom line?

  • In North America, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat chronic pain.
  • There are a number of conditions and symptoms that acupuncture has been said to help with, including anxiety and depression, insomnia, menstrual cramps, migraines, multiple sclerosis and cancer treatment. However, larger-scale trials are required to confirm the benefits.
  • The risks of acupuncture are low when performed by a certified acupuncturist using single-use disposable needles.
  • Infection is the number one adverse event.
  • Other common side effects include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles are inserted.
  • Not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture. Complications may occur for those with bleeding disorders or on blood thinners, those with pacemakers or pregnant women.

Learn more about acupuncture, how it is thought to work and its use as a treatment for chronic pain by watching the full-length video.

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This work was supported through the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and funds provided by the Dean and Vice-President, Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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