Injuries caused by acupuncture: an overview

Deborah Blythe, Consultant in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, personal injury and medical negligence team. Janice Gardner, Partner in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, personal injury and medical negligence team.
Multiple Authors
2 min Read
Deborah Blythe, Janice Gardner

England's record goal scorer Ellen White recently revealed that she suffered a punctured lung whilst receiving acupuncture treatment and that she was still coming to terms with the "traumatic" injury.

It is an unusual injury and this article takes a look at how and why injuries during acupuncture can happen.

Acupuncture performed by trained practitioners is generally a very safe procedure. 

Traditional Chinese acupuncture started about 2500 years ago and follows an empirical set of rules and beliefs.  However, modern, scientific, medical or western acupuncture is based on neurophysiology, endorphin release, gate theory and segmental effects and generally requires a medical diagnosis.

The British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) is a registered charity which is established to promote the use and understanding of acupuncture within medicine for the public benefit. It seeks to promote high standards of practice by providing training and education for regulated healthcare professionals. They have a code of practice and produce standards of practice for practitioners in respect of the use of dry needles in a modern way to stimulate specific reactions in the target muscles to relieve pain, spasm and dysfunction.

Dry needling is the insertion of a solid filiform needle through the skin into the body to obtain therapeutic benefit.  The needle is made from stainless steel wire. It is exactly the same as an acupuncture needle but the method of use is very different to traditional Chinese acupuncture, which considers energy flow through meridians and unblocking this flow at precise acupuncture point locations. 

Safety aspects of needling are a major part of BMAS training and the code of practice describes various techniques that should be employed by a practitioner when carrying out needling to avoid potential problems. In addition a competent practitioner needs to be familiar with the local anatomy of the region that they are intending to needle so as to avoid piercing an anatomical structure such as the lung.

Injury can occur even in experienced hands and in order to prove that a practitioner has been negligent, expert evidence will be necessary to demonstrate whether a practitioner adopted a safe technique when needling and had reasonable regard for the location of placement of the needles and the attendant anatomy as described in the BMAS standard of practice.

We have experience of dealing with injuries caused by acupuncture and if you believe that you have been injured in similar circumstances then do get in contact with Janice Gardner in our personal injury and clinical negligence team to discuss the matter further.

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