Q. I have pain in both hips now although until recently i have suffered with Bursitis in left hip. I have been told by a physiotherapist in local hospital that as i suffer from odoema in leg that i cannot have acupuncture in hip as it will cause the leg to loosr feeling. Is this true. I have had acupuncture in the past for back pain and it has worked.
A. We have to say straight away that we are unaware of any evidence that acupuncture into an oedematous leg can cause loss of feeling, or that needling the hip itself when there is oedema can cause loss of feeling. There are certainly no adverse event reports of which we are aware. The main caution observed for treating a patient with oedema is the possibility of causing cellulitis, and a BAcC member will spend considerable time discussing with any patient suffering from oedema what may be responsible for this.
One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is that it treats the person, not just the symptom, and this does mean that a practitioner can treat problems in one part of the body with needles somewhere else. In the case of oedema, as we have mentioned above, there is a great deal which can be done without necessarily needling the affected limb. In your particular case, if the bursitis is seen to have arisen from a wider and more systemic problem involving the fluids of the body, there is much that can be done without going near the affected part. Generally, however, it is best to treat the specific area affected alongside the body as a whole.
If acupuncture has been successful for you before it may well prove to be very helpful now. While we would not wish to create discord between patients and other health professionals, we would recommend that you ask the physio what the evidence is for the potential loss of sensation. We are not infallible and there may be studies or reports of which we are not aware where this risk has been highlighted. In the absence of published reports or guidelines suggesting the contrary, we think that you would be perfectly safe to have acupuncture treatment and hope that it brings you some relief from your discomfort.