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Side affects from acupuncture?

Q:  have been diagnosed with tendinitus in my shoulder.  I have had physio four times but I am  no better. On my  last visit he suggested acupuncture. Needles were put in in my neck, shoulder and arm. After a few minutes I started to feel dizzy ..My shoulder has been worse since and also my muscles in my legs feel weak causing me to have trouble with getting up from a kneeling position and up and down stairs.  Would this be side affects from the needles? 

A:  We can understand that you might feel a little dizzy after having treatment, and also the slight aggravation of the shoulder problems, but the more general feeling of weakness is a bit of a puzzle.

On the leaflets we hand out to patients about aftercare advice we mention that there may be some minor adverse events after treatment, and a slightly dizzy or 'spaced out' feeling is certainly possible. This can happen during treatment too. We mean no disrespect to our physiotherapist colleagues, but the techniques they use for musculo-skeletal problems are often a little more vigorous than those we employ, and this can sometimes cause what we would describe as a disturbance or stirring up of the energies which can make people feel a little woozy. This usually passes off quite quickly, but there are some patients who are quite sensitive to treatment, and for them treatment will always have to be slightly more gentle to avoid over-excitement of the system.

'Getting worse before getting better' is a potentially dangerous principle; sometimes people are simply getting worse. However, in the treatment of necks, backs and shoulders we tend to routinely tell new patients that there first 48 hours after treatment can sometimes see an aggravation of their symptoms. There is no commonly accepted explanation for this, although many believe that the pains arise from the muscles and tendons starting to re-gain their true positions, rather like the pains you get from warming your cold feet in front of a fire when the circulation returns. However, whether there is a simple explanation or not it is a common enough experience that we tell patients that this might happen, and if often does.

The weakness in the legs is an entirely different matter, however. There is no obvious connection between treatment in the neck, shoulder and arm which would impact on the strength of the whole system, at least not in the conventional medical terms under which treatment has been given. We could perhaps make a case in traditional acupuncture for a temporary and transient event of this nature, but it would almost certainly be a short term problem. Our best advice is to monitor this and see if it starts to dissipate. If it doesn't there may be a case for going to your GP and just getting things checked. What we always advise patients to do is not to get over-focused on establishing how something has happened to the detriment of getting proper treatment. Things can happen contingently, and it is always worth getting an unusual symptom checked, arising from treatment or not.

Of course, the first person to whom you should address your concerns is the physio himself. he will know far better than we can what he has done and we are sure that he can out your mind at ease about some of the problems you have experienced.


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