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Numbness in the neck after acupuncture

Q:  I have had a terrible experience. I had acupuncture  for a  neck problem and tingling sensation on my 4th and 5th finger..She put the needle in scm muscle.. After that I had an odd feeling  around my left ear like somebody pulling my ear down to my  collarbone and numbness in the back of my neck. After that I saw her and  was given a massage. but it hasnt gone.  For the past 10 days I  have felt like  I am in a prision. For  the numbness I went to a massage therapist which has made it worse .  I am dealing with a headache every day because of the stiffness.  

A: We are very sorry to hear of your problem. It is always very difficult to give a clear opinion without having sight of the problem itself. It is not unusual when treating people for a bad neck to find that for 24 - 48 hours after the treatment the problem can get a little worse. We, along with osteopaths and chiropractors, often counsel people that this may well happen so that they are prepared for a slight intensifying of symptoms. When this happens, though, invariably things then start to improve. It is most unusual for a treatment to cause a problem which continues for as long as the one you have has done.

The one possibility to consider is that the treatment may have caused a little subcutaneous bruising which is putting pressure on the cranial nerves and also on some of the muscles at the back of the neck. This might well cause some of the symptoms which you are experiencing. If this is the case then they will wear off within a week or so, and hopefully leave you with the overall improvement you were looking for.

We also have to alert to the possibility that the worsening of your problems might be a coincidence. This always sounds rather defensive but with close on 3 million treatments a year being given by our members there are bound to be occasions when something just happens at the same time as a treatment without necessarily being caused by it. The important thing to do is to establish what is going on rather than getting stuck into arguing about whether the acupuncture did or did not cause the problem to happen. In this situation it is important that you see your GP and get his or her advice about what is happening. This will undoubtedly lead to treatment options which will establish what caused the problem.

We often recommend that people keep the matter under discussion with their practitioner but recognise that sometimes people feel a little reluctant to have more treatment from someone who they feel has caused the problem. The reality is, though, that they are best placed to offer advice, knowing well what the initial presenting problem was as well as what they have done.

We can reassure you, however, that the number of cases in a year which result in anything serious happening are very few indeed, and we are confident that your symptoms will soon subside.


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