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Is acupuncture good for shoulder and neck pains if you have a heart stent?

Q:  My dad had a heart attack in  2005 and he has an stent in his heart. He has recently had a lot of pains in the  back of his shoulder going to his neck and his left arm.  Do you know if acupuncture is the solution for it or if it's good for him or not please.

A:  We think we can safely say based on what you have told us that there is no reason not to have acupuncture. There are very few contraindications for acupuncture, reasons why we could not treat someone, and having had a heart attack and stent fitted does not pose a problem.

Whether acupuncture could help or not depends a great deal on what the cause of the pains is. For the kinds of pains which your father is getting, and taken together with his medical history, I think most of us would probably want to refer him back to his GP or cardiologist for further testing and an all clear for all involvement of the heart or other internal organs. Some of the aches and pains which people have are what is known as referred pain, where the pain is actually starting in an internal organ but is perceived by the body as a muscular problem on the surface. The classic example is angina pectoris which can present as a pain the left shoulder and arm. Given that your father has had a stent fitted it implies that there has been some atheroma/plaque-like material in the arteries and this may have caused another artery to be sounding warning bells.

However, if the pains are simply muscular, there is a good chance that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit. As we point out in our factsheet

there is some reasonable evidence for the successful use of acupuncture as a means of relieving this kind of pain.

We always advise people to see a BAcC member for a brief face to face assessment; this is by far the best way to establish just how much benefit acupuncture may be able to offer. In your father's case this is doubly so, just to make sure that these are not pains which we would do better to heed as a warning sign than simply treat and try to disperse.

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