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Ask an expert - general

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We are often asked whether adverse reactions are normal, and our usual response is 'not normal, but not unknown'. It is not unusual early in a  course of treatment for someone to experience a slight worsening of their original symptoms (we aren't sure what you presenting problem is/was) or even the expulsion of pathogens which can cause the body to feel a little sore. Pathogens in the Chinese medicine sense can cover a  wide range of what the Chinese called 'invasions' like colds and viral conditions which can lurk around until they are expelled. Occasionally people do feel flu-like symptoms out of nowhere. It is unusual to find this happening on the third session rather than the first or second time, but there are no rules. The aches should subside within 49-72 hours.

Of course, the possibility which we have to factor in is that this is a new condition which has nothing to do with the treatment. With over 4 million sessions a year there are bond to be odd times when something comes up just after a session which has nothing to do with the treatment. it is always best to bear this in mind if the problem continues for more than a few days. Acupuncture very rarely causes long term adverse effects except on the rare occasions when a needle pierces something it shouldn't, so if a potential side-effect doesn't subside after about four days then it is worth seeking medical advice.

Hopefully by the time you receive this the aches and soreness will have subsided. 

 

We have to be honest and say that it is almost impossible to predict how many sessions someone will need. We can make educated guesses with some problems, but I suspect all of us have had the experience of saying 'two or three sessions should do it' and then found ourselves ten sessions down the line with a better but unnecessarily disappointed patient. All that we can do is to make sure that we review progress on a regular basis (every four or five sessions) to assess what progress there has been and whether it is worth continuing.

Anxiety can be particularly difficult to treat, although the research does point in favour of acupuncture, as our factsheet shows

https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/anxiety.html.

However, the causes of anxiety and the different types are so many that it is very difficult to make predictions. If someone has been anxious for thirty years, though, it might be reasonable to expect that it will take a while to unlearn some of the behaviour patterns that have developed.

That said, we do often see people change after the first session, sometimes in terms of feeling that they are now oriented in the right direction and able to start a journey towards better inner states. This change can be subtle but anxiety sufferers who are often very tuned in to their inner states can often perceive the difference. Progress can sometimes be unpredictable, though, and life cna often generate challenges which cause setbacks.

On balance, though, we see many people for the treatment of anxiety, and we get many of our referrals by word of mouth, so as smart lawyers say, res ipsa loquitur!

 

 

We are sorry to hear about your experience. We tend to the view that most adverse effects of treatment are transient, and we tend to advise patients that the next 48 hours could see some reactions, especially after a first session. If the person is highly sensitive to treatment, then this can extended a little further, but certainly there should be no continuing reaction after a week.

What happens after that will depend on the practitioner. We are all able to tone down the strength of treatment by using fewer needles, gentler insertions or less manipulation of the needle, and a sensitive practitioner will treat with great caution when he or she gets feedback like this. If the reaction kicks off while you are being treatment common sense suggests that the treatment proceeds slowly to ensure that you don't feel sedated. First treatments can often be more likely to generate side effects, especially if they unlock blockages in areas like the lower back, and subsequent sessions are rarely as disconcerting.

Of course, the other interpretation is that the vertigo is not connected to the treatment itself but has arisen independently. With over 4 million treatments in the UK each year there could well be times when a problem appears alongside treatment, even alongside transient side effects of treatment, and have nothing to do with the treatment itself. Dizziness and vertigo 48 hours after a session would be very unusual, and if this continues into the next few days you need to get this checked out with your GP. It may be a sign of a contingent infection affecting your inner ear, but it is important not to assume that it is acupuncture-related and wait to see what happens. If it something which would have made you see a GP if you hadn't had acupuncture then you should head off their as soon as possible to find out what is happening.

We hope that by the time you receive this the side effects will have subsided, and if so, we hope that the treatment of your lower back pain is successful. Many people get very good results from acupuncture for lower back pains, and even the NICE guidelines until recently recommended this as one of the better treatment options.

 

We are sorry to hear of your continuing problems.

As far as direct physical damage is concerned we would be very surprised if the acupuncture treatment could have generated adverse effects like these which continue for a couple of years. The key factor here is that the temple pains are bilateral. A practitioner might get unlucky and cause irritation of a nerve on rare occasions  but to do so with a range of points over all parts of the head would require someone to be using excessively powerful needle insertions on all occasions. In our experience if someone was doing this the pains would be immediate and unmistakable.

However, one can never rule anything out completely, and the one rare possibility is that the needles have been manipulated vigorously and caused bruising which has formed local scar tissue which in turn is impinging some of the local nerves. This is something which you could discuss with your GP, and possibly also have some bloods taken to see of there is anything in your clotting factors which predisposes you to bleeding with small wounds or cuts.

The other two possibilities are straightforward. One is that the reaction is energetic, and that the treatment has in some way uncovered or created blockages which haven't yet been cleared. This again would be rare. Where treatment generates these kinds of transient adverse effects they tend to last or about 48 hours and then the system returns to the status quo. Two years would be a remarkable length of time, and again the fact that the effect is bilateral tends to make this less likely.

The second possibility is that the discomfort and pain has nothing to do with the treatment but just happened to turn up at the same time in roughly the same place. With over 4 million treatments a year being offered in the UK there are bound to be coincidences, and our main concern when this happens is to ensure that arguments kick off about whether the acupuncture did or did not cause the problem. Our advice is always to see the GP and have the problems checked. This tends to identify the cause and in turn this usually reveals whether the acupuncture treatment has caused the issue.

So, in summary, this is not a normal side effect from treatment, and certainly not this length of time after the treatment. We would recommend that you visit your GP to get inside the system again in order to find out what is going on. Sometimes we recommend that people go back to the practitioner to discuss what they did and for them to assess whether from their perspective there is something they can see which could alleviate the problem, but we have to accept that patients who have suffered adverse effects are reluctant to go back and even more reluctant to have further treatment. However, it remains an option.

 

We usually filter all our responses via our London Office, but in this case, with the office closed until Monday, it is essential that you get a response immediately. If you're father is a Type 1 diabetic stopping his insulin is putting his life at risk, and he must start taking it again immediately. 

If he feels that the acupuncture treatment he has been receiving has changed his balance in such a way that he can address his diabetes with a lower dose of insulin then that is something he can discuss with his doctor. If the doctor agrees then he can start to reduce his dose. Otherwise he is putting himself in danger.

Our members  are trained never to recommend that someone stops taking an essential medication unless it is with the agreement, and under the direct supervision, of their doctor. We would most probably take action against a member who put a patient at risk for suggesting that they stop taking an essential medication.

We are sorry if this seems a little alarmist but we have seen cases where not taking insulin on time has had serious consequences, and we cannot stand by and do nothing if your father has been advised to do something which has put himself at risk.

In our experience it would be most unlikely for acupuncture treatment to reverse the causes of Type 1 diabetes. For this reason we need to reiterate that your father seeks medical advice as soon as possible.

 

 

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