AF: Benefits and risks of acupuncture

Alternative medicine has been increasing in popularity, with many patients turning to it alongside traditional or orthodox medicine. While alternative medicine can offer numerous benefits, it is essential to recognise that it can also carry risks. This is particularly true for individuals with atrial fibrillation (AF), a common heart condition that can increase the risk of stroke and other complications.


One alternative therapy that has gained popularity in recent years is acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow or Qi. While acupuncture has been used to treat various conditions for centuries, patients with AF must exercise caution when considering this therapy.

One of the significant risks associated with acupuncture for patients with AF is that it can potentially stop AF suddenly. When the heart is in AF, the atria - or the upper chambers of the heart - contract irregularly, leading to the formation of blood clots. These clots can travel to other parts of the body, including the brain, causing a stroke. If acupuncture stops AF suddenly, it could lead to the pumping out of these clots, which can be dangerous and potentially harmful to the body.

Given this risk, it is essential for patients with AF to inform their doctor if they are considering acupuncture therapy. Cardiologists can use medication to reduce the risk of thrombosis, making acupuncture therapy safer. In fact, doctors often use the same approach to reduce thrombosis risk before cardioversion, a medical procedure that uses an electrical shock to restore the normal rhythm of the heart for patients with AF.

It is crucial for patients to understand that alternative medicine and traditional medicine can work together to provide the best possible care. Patients should not view these approaches as mutually exclusive but rather as complementary. By working with their doctors and being transparent about all treatments they are receiving, patients can ensure that they receive the best possible care while minimising potential risks.

In addition to acupuncture, other alternative therapies may be beneficial for patients with AF. For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and yoga, have been shown to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Acupuncture can also be beneficial for treating pain, anxiety, and depression, which are common among patients with AF.

It is worth noting that not all alternative therapies are safe or effective. Patients should be cautious of unproven treatments that claim to cure or prevent AF. It is essential to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new therapy or treatment.

In conclusion, while acupuncture can offer numerous benefits, patients with AF must exercise caution when considering this therapy. By informing their doctor and working together to reduce the risk of thrombosis, patients can safely explore alternative medicine alongside traditional medicine.

Patients should also be mindful of the potential risks associated with other alternative therapies and seek guidance from a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment. Ultimately, the key to successful treatment is to work collaboratively with healthcare professionals to develop a personalised treatment plan that is safe and effective.

If you'd like to find out more about how acupuncture can help you, feel free to reach out to me

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Therapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London KT2 & Central London SW3
Written by Dr Feng Chao, MD PhD - Classical Chinese Acupuncture in London
London KT2 & Central London SW3

Dr. Feng Zhi Chao MD PhD
Acupuncturist, Surgeon, Beijing; PhD in medicine, Edinburgh University
World Outstanding Acupuncturist listed in Beijing
London Lister Hospital / HCA Acupuncture Practicing Privileges
Practice at London Knighsbridge and Kingston.
Phone: 02082871007

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