The Safety of Laser Acupuncture: A Systematic Review

Juan Yang, Molly J. Mallory, Qinglong Wu, Sara E. Bublitz, Alexander Do, Donglin Xiong, Christina Ying Ying Chen, Peter T. Dorsher, Tony Y. Chon, Brent A. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Laser acupuncture has become increasingly attractive in clinical practice, especially for patients with needle phobias well as elderly people and children. However, literature concerning the safety of laser acupuncture has been limited. This systematic review synthesizes the current available literature on the safety of laser acupuncture. Methods: Ovid MEDLINE,® Epub Ahead of Print, In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations Daily, Ovid Embase, Scopus, and EBM Reviews-Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases were searched for available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on laser acupuncture. Safety data were extracted from the included studies. Adverse events (AEs) data were extracted and assessed in terms of severity and causality. Results: Of 737 articles, 21 RCTs were included. The majority of these RCTs reported that laser acupuncture was safe, without AEs; 6 trials reported AEs (including tingling, pain flare-ups, and transient fatigue). All AEs were mild and resolved spontaneously within 24 hours. The causal relationship between AEs and laser acupuncture was felt to be "certain"in 4 studies, "probable"in 1 study, and "possible"in 1 study. AEs were collected and monitored by evaluation methods in 7 trials: 5 with AE questionnaires, 1 with a checklist, and 1 with oral reports. Conclusions: Laser acupuncture appears to be a safe therapy associated with few mild and transient AEs. However, given the heterogeneity of current studies, large, well-designed placebo-controlled RCTs with rigorous evaluation methods are needed to assess the safety of laser acupuncture more completely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-217
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Acupuncture
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • adverse event
  • complementary and alternative medicine
  • laser acupuncture
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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