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I had acupuncture down my right side. Both my legs are feeling hot to touch - is this normal?

A:  We are not entirely sure at this point whether the treatment and the effect are related. Generally speaking, when treatment causes what we call adverse events, usually transient adverse events, these are very often local to where the needles have been placed. Infection from needles is so rare as to be easily dismissed as a cause; single use disposable needles used properly are as safe as can be. The only other thing we tend to look for is any deep bruising or damage which may not be apparent on the surface, but which may be causing something to happen by impingeing a nerve. However, as we said, it is usually fairly easy to follow the track from where the needles were to where the problem arises, and it would be very unusual to see a bilateral effect from a one-sided needle insertion unless the needles had been placed centrally in the neck or back.

However, this is to look at things from an entirely conventional perspective. When we treat according to traditional Chinese medicine principles we can often remove blockages in what we term the energy flow of the body, and sometimes reinstate a normal flow to the extremities where this had been compromised for a long time. This can sometimes be quite dramatic. We are also aware of the possibility that heat gets released after treatment. There are several ways of understanding pathologies in the system as 'heat being trapped in the interior', and it is not unknown for this heat to clear the system as a generalised feeling of heat or as a red rash.

We are not sure at this stage, and we would probably have to know a little more about what the treatment was and also the context in which it was given. We treat people, not conditions, and this means that the unique balance of the individual is integral to how we decide what to do. There may be aspects from this which would help us to understand what has happened. Clearly the best person to ask is the practitioner who treated you. His or her knowledge of your case history and what they were trying to achieve might be your best and quickest route to finding out what is happening.

We can understand how this is a concern, though. While we expect the problem will have subsided by the morning, if it continues and the skin starts to develop a redness corresponding to the heat you can feel we would be inclined to advise you to visit your GP as soon as possible to get a conventional view of what is happening. It may well be that the problem is unconnected to the treatment, and rather than spending time wondering whether the treatment caused the problem, it may be better to think 'had this happened anyway without a possible cause, what would I have done?'. If the answer is 'sought help immediately' then that is the best thing to do unless someone can give you a reasonable and compelling reason to see what happens.

We suspect that by the time you get this, the problem will either have subsided or be subsiding, or it will be continuing without change. If the latter applies it is important to get a conventional medical assessment of what is going on.

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