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Pain after acupuncture for lower back pain

Q:  I had an acupuncture session to help with my lower back pain and when the needles were inserted into my lower back my bum area I had a spasm in my leg. I also had pain in the other side where the other needle was all the rest seems to be fine. When I spoke to the practitioner he said this was normal as he had use larger Needles. It has now been over two weeks and I’m still suffering from pain at the side of the needle insertion and also from shooting pains and pins and needles especially in the side where the spasm occurred. Please help me is this normal as I have used acupuncture as treatment for my ME and migratory arthritis previously and have never experienced this.


A: We would hesitate to use the word 'normal' for anything which a patient might experience which is unpleasant, but adverse effects can happen after treatment. The vast majority are transient and have disappeared within 24 - 48 hours, but some can linger a little longer.

 This can particularly be the case when someone is using a slightly heavier gauge needle and inserting the needles quite deeply. The two go hand in hand; although it is possible to insert a fine needle to a considerable depth it is much more usual to use a slightly thicker needle to ensure that the tip is not diverted and twisted out of true. This does mean, unfortunately, that this can sometimes cause small bruises deep within the tissue but not necessarily visible at the skin surface. If these bruises are near to the passage of nerves there can be some impingement. This can generate sharp pains or even pins and needles. Such bruising can take a couple of weeks to disperse during which time there may be intermittent odd symptoms.

If this does persist, however, then it would be wise to make an appointment to see your GP just to ensure that everything is OK. The chances of something serious having happened are quite remote; acupuncture remains one of the safest modalities in use. It may be worth eliminating other possibilities, though, and a visit to the GP will undoubtedly provide reassurance that this is nothing more than a transient adverse event.

 We are sorry to hear that this has happened, and hope that it has not discouraged you from further treatment. We are confident that your practitioner will be able to ensure by using lighter gauge needles, shallower insertions and less manipulation that there is no recurrence of such unpleasant symptoms.

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