Have you ever considered acupuncture or dry needling?

If so, have you thought about the possible exposure of chemicals and consequential health outcomes?

Within Australia, The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates acupuncture needles into Class IIa medical devices in contrast to Class I, ranked the lowest risk available. Acupuncture is commonly performed in Traditional Chinese Medicine; however complementary medicine practitioners also utilize acupuncture needles for dry needling. Complementary medicine has become widely utilized within Australia with 32.3 million consultations over a 12 month period. (Xue, Zhang, Lin, Myers, Polus & Story 2008).

So what are the possible risks and consequences?
An Australian study reported (Xie, Xu, Zhang & Xue, 2014). “Significant irregularities and inconsistencies in acupuncture needle surfaces”, reporting defective tips, metal lump fragments which disappeared after insertion, contaminants such as silicone gel, oil, chromium, copper, ferrous and nickel were also detected, thereby implicating systemic contact dermatitis in susceptible or unsuspecting patients. (Yoko & Tadamichi, 2012). Findings related to silicone contamination, needle coverings have been implicated in the development of epithelioid granuloma. (Yanagihara, Fujii, Wakamatu, Ishizaki, Takehara & Nawate, 2000).
Pre-packaged, single-use, disposable acupuncture needles are commonly sterilized using Ethylene-oxide gas (EO). Regrettably (EO) has also been identified as a skin sensitizer further predisposing allergic reaction. The negative reports and study findings may reflect the patient experience (Macpherson & Thomas 2005), “pain and bruising at the site of needling in 29.7% of patients”.
Further safety, quality and performance control of acupuncture needles as a medical device has been suggested in the worldwide literature. (Xie, Xu, Zhang & Xue, 2014). Increasing practitioner and public awareness into the research will enable practitioners to report defective devices and adverse patient events, guiding safe informed practice whilst upholding patient safety.

Xue, C., Zhang, A., Lin, V., Myers, R., Polus, B., & Story, D. (2008). Acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy use in Australia: A national population survey. BMC Public Health, 8(1), 105-105.
Xie, Y., Xu, S., Zhang, C., & Xue, C. (2014). Examination of surface conditions and other physical properties of commonly used stainless steel acupuncture needles. Acupuncture in Medicine, 32(2), 146.
Yoko Yoshihisa, & Tadamichi Shimizu. (2012). Metal Allergy and Systemic Contact Dermatitis: An Overview. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012, Dermatology Research and Practice, 01 January 2012, Vol.2012.
Macpherson, H., & Thomas, K. (2005). Short term reactions to acupuncture – a cross-sectional survey of patient reports. Acupuncture in Medicine, 23(3), 112-120.
Yanagihara, M., Fujii, T., Wakamatu, N., Ishizaki, H., Takehara, T., & Nawate, K. (2000). Silicone granuloma on the entry points of acupuncture, venepuncture and surgical needles. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, 27(6), 301-305.
Hayhoe, S., Mccrossan, Smith, Ellis, Croft, & Mei. (2002). Single-use acupuncture needles: Scanning electron-microscopy of needle-tips. Acupuncture in Medicine, 20(1), 11-8.
Ethylene oxide: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0275.html
Images: Taken by Andrea Ormazabal, 2017.
Written by – Andrea Ormazabal