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Strong reaction (flare from the nerve pain) after acupuncture for neck and nerve pain

Q:  I have had three sessions now for neck and nerve pain.  My practitioner  says I am a strong responder. I had a strong flare after the first session, second one was five ,not as many needles, third session( today) very strong reaction ,feeling faint, I am now worried that this will result in a flare from the nerve pain.  What should I do if this happens(.this was my last visit to the therapist).

A:  We are not quite sure what to make of the phrase 'last visit to the therapist'. If we read this correctly it is that someone has done a short course of treatment rather than that you have had enough!

Treating neck and nerve pain can often cause some very strong reactions. There are dozens of nerves travelling up through the neck and into roots within the cervical spine, so treatment aimed at correcting the structure of the upper spine which can often be the source of the pain will have some profound effects. All of the reactions which you have described fit with this, and for neck and lower back pains we often tell new patients that for the first two or three sessions they might often feel a little worse for a day or two after treatment before the pattern of recovery is established.

If you are indeed a strong responder then this may be doubly the case. We do find from time to time that we take on patients who react incredibly strongly to the needles, and the only sensible thing to do is to reduce the number of needles used and to apply less manipulation to the needles. Treatment can be very very gentle if need be, and with strong responders that is often all that you need to achieve a result.

Where people do experience strong reactions, as you have done, these almost invariably wear off within 24 hours, usually after someone has rested or slept. It would be very unusual to find that a pain had been brought on by the acupuncture, and unless there had been physical damage from the needle insertion, itself quite rare, most of these reactions are simply to do with the readjustments which the treatment is trying to achieve. Osteopaths and chiropractors offer similar advice to their patients when they treat backs and necks; as the body is out back into proper shape there will be some pains caused by muscles re-arranging themselves. We deal with energies, and for us this kind of treatment can often cause slight light-headedness and feeling faint if the treatment has been strong.

If this was a fixed course of treatment and you can't go back to the practitioner (possibly an orthodox medical professional working to a fixed plan?) then you could certainly visit a local BAcC member for advice if the symptoms continue. However, we are pretty confident that they will subside, and the fact that acupuncture rarely causes serious adverse events makes us equally confident that there is no reason for your nerve pain to return. If it does, then it may well be worth dropping in to see your GP if the problem persists for a week or more. 

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