Bad reaction from accupuncture treatment?

forum post

Bad reaction from accupuncture treatment?

Published on 01-12-2017

"anon174507" - this is their first post.

I’m not sure where to post this but I have a condition called occipital Neuralgia. I am in daily chronic nerve pain and take neuronton 3 times daily. I went to my main chiropractor and he was able to restore movement in my neck which almost immediately relieved my pain. I was feeling amazing more than I ever have in years. The next day a small bit of pain returned but it was still better than average. That day, however, my mom took me to accupuncture. She has been seeing this lady for years with no issues. I have to admit I’m a little freaked out of needles and where they put them but I went about a week prior and had no issues. This time however, several needles in, the pain was EXCRUTIATING. I’m usually fairly tough but I practically screamed and started sobbing. It felt like my scalp was on fire then it transitioned to feeling like someone was using a caddle prod on my at the base of my skull. I continued to sob throughout the session as the pain only grew worse. She tried to use accupressure points to relieve the pain but it didn’t help at all. She ended up leaving the needles in anyway and letting me “rest” (more like cry and shake) for a half hour. By the time she came back my entire left leg was numb and I could not move it. My head still felt like it was being electrocuted. She took the rest of the needles out and after approximately 3 hours I was able to feel my leg and move it just slightly however I have pain in it that I’ve never had before and the electric shock feeling has not gone away in my head. It hurts immensely more than it ever has and I am feeling so stupid for going to accupuncture because I was doing so well before this visit. It is now over 24hrs after treatment and the pain has not lessened at all. I am concerned she aggravated or damaged further the occipital nerve. She said the pain was fine but was worried about my leg. What do I do for releif? This is some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt.

Comments / Discussions:

comment by "StephenS" (acupuncturist)
on Jan 2017

While it is technically possible to aggravate nerve related conditions with deep needling or excessive manipulation of the needles it is pretty rare especially from any practitioner who has been in practice for a while. Without knowing where she put the needles or what technique(s) she used it I won’t jump to any conclusions. When treating nerve related conditions the pain and/or level of discomfort can get worse before it gets better. It will usually subside within a day or two. If the pain does not subside, well that is different.

As for your leg going numb, that is somewhat unusual but again without knowing where the needles were and what she did I can’t really say much on that. It is not that uncommon that numbness can occur during the treatment - as long as the numbness fades after the treatment away I wouldn’t be too concerned.

There are several other posts on this topic which can you read here, here, and here.

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comment by "ChadD" (acupuncturist)
on Jan 2017

First is the person you saw an actual licensed acupuncturist, or a physiotherapist, MD, or someone else who “practices acupuncture”? I ask because this type of response is entirely not common and your reaction by the practitioner is very concerning to me. I’ve been in clinical practice for quite some time and have never had an experience like what you are describing, nor have any of my colleagues. Now some mild flared up issues after a treatment with chronic pain for a day or so is not that uncommon - generally -if- this happens at all it is only the first time or two and after that everything goes fairly up hill. What you are describing, however, is something entirely different.

Generally occipital neuralgia is well treated with acupuncture, I’ve successfully treated many, many cases. And the vast majority of people do not seek out acupuncture until they have exhausted every other option - so they have most likely already had PT, chiro, massage, etc. While it may not seem entirely appropriate advice based on your experience, I would continue acupuncture, perhaps with another practitioner - ideally a fully licensed (if available) acupuncturist who does only that - not a practitioner of other types of medicine. I would also be very cautious of chiropractic, even though you’ve had some short lived responses to it. This is particularly so if you haven’t had an MRI of your neck and sinus cavities and they are basing treatment only off of an x-ray (or “feel”). You can make your problem tremendously worse even though it may seem likes it is helping in the short run. It’s possible it could help with milder adjustments and with the right diagnostic testing - but compared to properly applied acupuncture by a well trained practitioner, honestly, the long-term efficacy is just not there.

Your leg numbness was probably just the way you were positioned on the table - I’m assuming that is completely fine at this point? And to ease your mind, actual nerve damage from acupuncture, while not entirely impossible if you basically tried to do it, or in the hands of a completely inexperienced practitioner, is technically impossible. Also, there isn’t exactly an “occipital nerve” that leads to “occipital neuralgia” - there are a whole branch of occipital nerves arising primarily from the neck and spreading out through the head - they are deep and would not even have been contacted by the needles, unless someone really had no idea what they were doing. So your nerves are as good as they were before - flared up, yes. What you feel is sensory response and interpretation from the brain, not actual damage.

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