What’s the bottom line on the safety of complementary health approaches for chronic pain (pain that lasts for weeks or much longer)? Many of the complementary approaches studied for chronic pain have good safety records. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re risk-free for everyone. Your age, health, special circumstances (such as pregnancy), and medicines or supplements that you take may affect the safety of complementary approaches.
For example, spinal manipulation—a technique performed by trained practitioners that involves using their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine—can include physical discomfort in the parts of the body that were treated, temporary headaches, or tiredness. There have also been rare reports of more serious problems.
Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced, well-trained practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects.
Some herbal products studied for painful conditions (in particular, thunder god vine), which is sometimes used for rheumatoid arthritis) may have serious side effects.