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Persistent diarrhoea after acupuncture?

Q:  My Dad is 73 and has been experiencing lower back and hip pain, the GP is currently considering whether he needs a hip replacement. I took him to my chiropractor and on the second visit 10 days ago he was given acupuncture. Sine then he's had persistent diarrhoea. We can't identify any other trigger; he's eaten the same food as the rest of us and no-one else has a bug. is this a possible side effect of acupuncture and if so, how long can he expect it to last? 

A: We might believe that this was a side effect if the diarrhoea lasted for 24-48 hours, but to have diarrhoea for this length of time suggests a bug of some kind. The only conceivable way that this could be connected with the acupuncture treatment would be if the practitioner's standards of personal and professional hygiene fell incredibly short of the standards which an acupuncture practitioner is supposed to follow. This would have to involve not washing hands properly, and also touching the shaft of the needle in such a way that bacteria were carried into the skin.

Our standards of practice preclude this ever happening, and our health and safety consultant gave an absolute assurance that if the procedures were followed precisely there could not be any cross-infection or infection. We do have some concerns about chiropractors and osteopaths adding acupuncture to their repertoire - many do not register with local authorities as required and some are not working in suitable surroundings - but such is the safety of modern treatment, with single use disposable needles applied with the help of a guide tube that it is inconceivable that someone has managed to infect a patient. The only very remote possibility is that there may have been bacteria on the surface which were carried inwards by a needle, but the chances that this caused a bout of diarrhoea rather than a skin lesion are theoretical rather than real.

We suspect that this is probably a rather unfortunate coincidence, but hope that your father has been seen by a GP. Ten days is a long time for a bout of diarrhoea, and this warrants further and immediate investigation.

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