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Acne and Acupuncture

Effect of Acupuncture on Acne

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint, acne results from an abundance of heat in the body. It is associated with dysfunction in the Lung, Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestine, and Heart channels and wind-heat, damp-heat, phlegm, and stagnation are the primary causes. Liu and Jiang suggest specific treatments for Wind/Heat in the Lung channel, Damp-heat in the Stomach and Large Intestine, Phlegm and blood stasis with heat and Spleen deficiency, and Exuberant fire in the Heart channel.1

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How to Use Acupuncture

Each condition has specific clinical manifestations that an acupuncturist can diagnose by appearance, tongue and pulse. They suggest 20 minute treatments every other day for ten sessions.1

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Safety Issues

Serious adverse effects associated with the use of acupuncture are rare. 1,2 The most commonly reported problems include short-term pain from needle insertion, tiredness, and minor bleeding. There is one report of infection caused by acupuncture given to a person with diabetes. 3 Some acupuncture points lie over the lungs and insertion to excessive depth could conceivably cause a pneumothorax (punctured lung). Because acupuncturists are trained to avoid this complication, it is a rare occurrence.

A recent report from China contained an example of another complication caused by excessively deep needling. 4 A 44-year-old man was needled on the back of the neck at a commonly used acupuncture point just below the bony protuberance at the base of the skull. However, the acupuncturist inserted the needle too deeply and punctured a blood vessel in the skull. The client developed a severe headache with nausea and vomiting; a CAT scan showed bleeding in the brain, and a spinal tap found a small amount of blood in the cerebrospinal fluid. The severe headache, along with neck stiffness, continued for 28 days. The man was treated with standard pain medication, and the condition resolved itself without any permanent effects.

Infection due to the use of unclean needles has been reported in the past, but the modern practice of using disposable sterile needles appears to have eliminated this risk.


  1. Ernst E, White AR. Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review. Am J Med. 110(6):481-5.
  2. MacPherson H, Thomas K, Walters S, Fitter M. The York acupuncture safety study: prospective survey of 34 000 treatments by traditional acupuncturists. BMJ. 323(7311):486-7.
  3. Shah N, Hing C, Tucker K, Crawford R. Infected compartment syndrome after acupuncture. Acupunct Med. 20(2-3):105-6.
  4. Choo DCA, Yue G. Acute intracranial hemorrhage in the brain caused by acupuncture. Headache. 2000;40:397-398.
  1. Liu, W., & Jiang, W. (2006). The Treatment of Acne with Acupuncture and Acupuncture-related Therapies, Journal of Chinese Medicine, (81), 30-3

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