Acupuncture for Pain Management

Linda M. Rapson, MD, CAFCI; Robert Banner, MD, CCFP, FRCP(C)


Geriatrics and Aging. 2008;11(2):93-97. 

In This Article

Contraindications to Acupuncture Treatment

There are no absolute contraindications to acupuncture needling alone. Relative contraindications may include extreme frailty and concurrent febrile illness. Local skin infection or breakdown dictates that points in the area of skin involvement not be used.

There is a traditional contraindication to using acupuncture in the first trimester of pregnancy and certain points to be avoided thereafter. Some of the forbidden points are anatomically related to the uterus, and some are powerful autonomic switches, so caution is reasonable.

However, the commonly cited contraindication or precaution about the risk of needling individuals taking anticoagulants has not proven to be a realistic one, in our experience. A large number of patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI) have been treated with acupuncture in Canada for over 15 years with no adverse effects, a high percentage of whom are taking warfarin and a smaller but significant number of whom are taking heparin.

The most problematic contraindication is the presence of a cardiac pacemaker when electrical stimulation on needles is indicated. Although modern pacemakers may not be affected by EA, most practitioners and patients would not choose to test the theory.


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