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Having acupuncture regularly for hip bursitis but last treatment left me in pain

Q: I've been having treatments for hip bursitis for about 8 weeks and  getting on really well until the last one. Now I am finding I'm back to where I was at the beginning;  dreadful pain on walking and climbing. This happened 2 days after my last treatment -  is this normal? 

A:  We wouldn't use the word 'normal' but it is not unknown for a condition to re-occur in the middle of a course of treatment.

Generally speaking this kind of flare-up is more common at the start of a course of treatment. We routinely warn patients with back and neck problems that the first couple of sessions may lead to an increase in their discomfort, as indeed most osteopaths and chiropractors also say to their patients. It would be more unusual for something like this to happen a little further down the path, and if this were to happen the first thing we would do as practitioners is to go carefully through the patient's last week and see what might have happened to disturb progress. This may not necessarily be a major event like a twist or fall. It can sometimes happen that people start to experience greater freedom and mobility, and occasionally get slightly ahead of their own rate of progress.

If there is nothing in the case history to suggest that this has a physical cause, the next possibility to explore is that the treatment may only be offering short term pain relief and that it is not so much progressing towards resolution as being held at bay. This is why we eventually start spreading treatments out from weekly to fortnightly and monthly to see if there is sustainable progress. If the treatment runs out of steam we tend to re-appraise what we are doing in case we appear to be offering a successful but non-enduring palliative.

The most likely reason, though, which is probably not helpful to hear is that sometimes these things just happen for no apparent reason. What you will know is that treatment can get you from this place to a better state, and hopefully you will continue and experience the same level of relief. However, it might now call for a much more managed recovery where the effects of treatment and the management of the case as a whole needs more focused attention.

In our experience bursitis problems can be problematic, because from a Chinese medicine perspective they involve not just a local reaction but usually a systemic change which allows the accumulation of fluids in a more widespread fashion, and there are broader factors like diet and sleep patterns which can have an impact on a physical problem as much as movement or jarring. This, though, is the strength of Chinese medicine, treating not just the problem

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