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Pain worse after acupuncture for chronic leg pain

Q:  I had acupuncture on  my lower legs and feet for chronic leg pain. The pain seemd to be  worse the following day is this normal it was done on the nhs both legs feel prickly and achey .

A:  We hesitate to use the word 'normal', but it is not unknown for the day or two after a treatment to cause a certain amount of reaction. Most of these reactions are what we classify as 'transient adverse events', and while some are the result of the physical act of needling (bruises, ect) an equal if not larger proportion are a positive reaction to treatment. This can often be the result of improving the energy flow in an area, and for those of us old enough to remember the prevalence of chilblains, the restoration of circulation can be a painful business. In the same way restoring the energies of the body can be a little uncomfortable.

 We are also mindful of the fact that you received your treatment in the NHS. This usually means that the person administering it is a physiotherapist or occasionally a doctor using what is termed western medical acupuncture. This can often be a little more vigorous than traditional acupuncture, with slightly larger gauge needles and more manipulation. While effective this can generate unintended side effects like residual pain which, because the practitioner is not working with a concept of energy, is usually put down to bruising or the re-arrangement of muscles and tendons as the needles encourage better function.

 In any event, there is nothing to worry about. If the effect is short lived and not too uncomfortable, and your lower legs and feet are feeling the benefit, then all well and good, as long the improvement outweighs the discomfort. You can always ask the practitioner to tone it down, though; a great deal can be done to reduce the impact of the treatment itself by using thinner needles, less manipulation and less depth of insertion. This is not necessarily going to have any impact on the success of treatment, and simply recognises that some people have slightly more sensitive systems than others.


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