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I feel quite emotional a few hours after the session almost like a release of tension or something. Is this normal or should I mention it next time.

Q. I see a sports therapist for help with aches and pains after regular gym exercise. He has also recently been carrying out accupuncture. My concern is I feel quite emotional a few hours after the session almost like a release of tension or something. Is this normal or should I mention it next time. I always sleep so much better and it helps alot with the back pain.

A. It sounds to us like the treatment is having a very beneficial effect, and yes, we do find that on occasion treatment for a specific problem can actually have a systemic effect. So, for example, treating someone for a bad back can release all sorts of blockages, some of which might be expressed in a release of 'contained' emotion. It is certainly something which any practitioner would value as feedback.

This is something of a live issue for us because of the greater use of acupuncture within a western medical context as a focused treatment for physical problems. We have made the case for many years that while we value the fact that people are getting the undoubted benefit, from our perspective any needle inserted into the body can affect body, mind and spirit. Our concern is that you can't know what you don't know so if someone treats on a musculo-skeletal basis they are not going to be aware of the possible emotional reactions this might stir up.

For us this would be valuable feedback, and our systems can interpret and work with reactions of any kind. A great deal of Chinese medicine thought uses rather general concepts like 'appropriateness' so when an emotion appears inappropriately or in inappropriate quantity it becomes diagnostically significant and helps us to restore balance in the whole system. We are all mainly trained in working with people to delve a little more deeply into what is going on, guided as we are by the belief that repressed emotions can manifest as muscular problems. If they are not properly addressed the body will simply manifest another similar problem until they are.

We always tread carefully, though, because we would not want to be seem to be staking out the territory and trying to stop people from using acupuncture in a more physical way. Many people derive huge benefit from such measures. What we would like to see is people referring patients on to us if they start eliciting reactions which they cannot explain, or at very least talk to the patient about the sorts of things that are coming up and directing them to someone who can help them.

That said, we have had many patients who experience these kinds of almost cathartic reactions to treatment without any background of problems not dealt with, and as long as the effect is short-lived and the overall problems seem to improve we don't make a big deal of it. Everyone is unique and special!