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Left arm completely numb during treatment

Q:  I had my 2nd acupuncture treatment  which introduced front needles. When finished and I was lying down, I suddenly felt my heart beating in the sternum needle and then my left arm went completely numb. I have never felt anything like this, and was told it wasn't the needles...... but I'm not convinced..... What happened during this sitting, please help.

A:It's not quite clear from your question whether the strange events took place when the needles were in  or after they had been removed ('when she had finished').

 In either event this would be an unusual reaction. Most adverse effects of treatment occur where the needles have been inserted, so if there were to be a numb sensation,  whether this was a physical effect of touching a nerve or an energetic effect caused by moving energy ('qi'), it would usually be local to the needle insertion site. In some cases the energetic effect of needling can make a sensation travel along a channel, so a needle behind the knee, for example, could cause a sensation to travel up or down the defined route of energy travel. To get this kind of connection from needles on the torso would be more unusual, although not impossible. There are an extremely large number of interconnections between channels in Chinese medicine, and if a point is stimulated very strongly it is always possible that the effects can be stirred up at some distance from the needle.

 Of course, we also have to consider that the effects you experience, rapid heart rate and numbness, occurred at the same time as treatment but were not directly caused by it or simply coincidental. By not directly caused we don't mean that there may be no connection, just that it may be a reaction to being needles rather a reaction from being needled. It is always important if you experience something like this to check in with your GP. It's difficult not to sound alarmist, but while the vast majority of strange symptoms like this are benign one in a thousand may not be. If you were a patient of ours we would send you to your GP to get this checked out.

 We suspect the most likely cause is a form of panic attack brought on by the needles, or some sort of postural reaction to the specific angle at which you were resting. If either is the case then this is something which you need to talk through with your practitioner before your next session. We think it is highly unlikely that you have suffered a physical injury from the needles, and if needles are the cause, it may be to do with too deep insertion, too vigorous manipulation or too many needles. All of these are under the control of the practitioner, and can be adjusted to make the experience more comfortable in future. Good communication is usually the best way to resolve problems like this.

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