Q:I have just had my fist session of acupuncture for an ongoing lower back condition ( slipped disk ) - she inserted 7 needles into my back, thigh, knee and ankle. Immediately after I felt ok, but 2 days on I have been suffering with dizziness, worse pain in my back than before the session and I have diarrhea - is this normal?
A: 'Normal' is a word which we hesitate to use in these situations because it implies that this happens all the time, but it's fair to say that with all patients with lower back problems we do tend to advise them that pain and stiffness may be a little greater for the next couple of days. We are not alone in doing this; osteopaths and chiropractors routinely offer the same advice.
What we usually tell people is that if someone has been out of shape for a long while there is often a great deal of re-adjustment to be done. We work on function rather than structure, but once muscles start to work properly some are going to relax and others to be forced to stretch, and inevitably this is going to become a bit of an issue. This should subside in a couple of days, but if it doesn't it's probably worth contacting your practitioner to ask their advice.
The lightheadedness may be a part of the same pattern. Energy flows will be changing, and this may lead to a few ripples in the system. However, the diarrhoea is less likely to be an outcome of treatment. We have colleagues who might claim that this was the body purging itself of toxins, and if your overall history is complex and there are a number of background problems now or in the past then it is just possible that there may be a connection. We suspect, though, that taken in conjunction with the lightheaded feeling you may have a bug which has simply happened to coincide with the treatment rather than being caused by it. Here again, if it last longer than a couple of days more you might want to seek advice.
In general, though, the best person to ask is always the practitioner looking after you. Some may get a little defensive, as is only natural, but the majority will be only too happy to reassure you and to interpret what is happening in the context of your unique case history which they will have gone through in detail on your first session.