After my third acupuncture treatment for chronic back pain suffering from numbness in my back, severe nausea and light headed

Q:  I have had  three  acupunture  treatments for chronic back pain.  I had needles placed in my lower back,  my ankles  and hands hands.  New  this week I had numbness in my back for a few hours, severe nausea for two days with sweats and light headedness also my hands have been very painful.  Is  this normal?

A:  We would never say that pains  and discomfort such as you have suffered are 'normal' but they are not impossible, and there are a number of occasions each year when we hear from people who have suffered a disproportionate reaction to treatment.

The numbness in the back we can easily make sense of; there are several points in the back which are very powerful and can sometimes cause a mild anaesthetic effect which wears off after hours, but can last for a couple of days. The pain in the hands might also be a reaction to the needles. Aside from any local damage which needles can do by causing internal bruising (where someone experiences pain but with no immediate visible external signs) there is sometimes an element of discomfort as the flow of energy improves and subtle changes in the structure start to take place as the muscles and tendons return to proper use.

The severe nausea and lightheadness are another matter, though, especially lasting for two days. One obvious explanation is that the treatment and its  after effects coincided with a bug. We never say this to avoid responsibility, but we have to be realistic that with over 2.5 million treatments a year it could well be that something which happens after a treatment has nothing to do with it. We emphasise this because it sometimes stops people from seeking conventional help, and we always advise people to get conventional treatment where necessary. This usually establishes what the cause of the problem was.

The other possibility is that the treatment may have been too powerful for you. Some people are quite sensitive energetically, and treatments for things like back problems can often mean the use of some very powerful points and some quite strong manipulation of the needles. For some people this can be too much, and the system can become quite disordered for a while. Symptoms like nausea and lightheadedness are often a part of this kind of reaction. You need to discuss this with your practitioner to find out whether the treatment can be adjusted, or to look at what other factors might have been involved. Sometimes people can be quite badly affected by treatment if they have specific foods, drinks or exercise too soon after a session.

However, if the problem has persisted even to a small degree by the time that you receive this reply you would be best advised to pop along to see your GP in case you do have some kind of bug and need conventional treatment. There are quite a few of the norovirus-type bugs going around at the moment, and in their milder forms they can often create these kinds of symptoms.

We do hope, though, that these effects were transient, and that you can work with your practitioner to make sure that your progress is less hampered by side effects.

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