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Acupuncture complications - from knee pain to hives


Really need some expert opinions here. I've been a believer in acupuncture for years and mostly positive experiences with it, mostly in the US. I live in India now, and have just had 3 months (20 sessions) of really problematic acupuncture here.

The problem I had was near term: sudden weight gain, pain in my knees and thighs, fatigue and chronic: a 2 year problem in the vaginal region - repeated infections, dryness, burning, itching (all in rotation). Loss of libido.

Being in India, where acupuncture quacks abound, I wanted a good doctor. So I found out about and went to an acupunturist who has received high awards and has been in the field for decades. An experienced staff doctor took my case. This was in late March. She said I had damp heat in the lower burner and said I should go in for acupuncture 3 times a week for a month and then reduce frequency. I more or less did that, and had ear needles put in when I went on trips. I watched my diet, and as she told me to, I cut out all dairy, all wheat, all juices, all tofu, anything cold. I stopped drinking even occasionally and also quit smoking (which I used to once a week when I had beer). Maybe twice since April I have had 3-4 glasses of beer and I felt so ill after that I did not do it again.

So, 2 weeks into the treatment, my knee pain was gone, sure. My sinuses began draining into my throat directly - and this draining continued non stop since April. Even now my damn sinuses are draining, into my throat. But even so, one nostril is always blocked.

*But* I was still getting vaginal infections (thrice since April) and when no infection, vaginal dryness, itching and burning. Zero libido as before. What's worse, in 2 weeks, I started getting serious upper abdominal pains, really bad, like I used to have when I had IBS - which was more or less healed (by a acupuncturist) 4 years ago. I told her this and she was pretty dismissive. She would look at my black tongue and say "Oh you must have had a tamarind chutney or a coriander chutney or a cola drink, that has given your tongue this colour". It was wierd how even when I hadn't done any of those things and I told her I knew the colour was coming internally, she did not want to acknowledge it. I suffered with this pain daily for 2 weeks and a feeling like hot, burning air was moving around in my lower abdomen and colon. And every time I saw her (3 times a week), I'd tell her this and she'd cluck and nod.

After 2 weeks after suffering daily with this pain I kind of emphatically asked her what the reason for this pain was, which I did not have before I saw her, and what was causing it. She got all defensive and said "Acupuncture cannot cause pain", told me I had "gastritis" and - get this - asked me to take antibiotics!!

I did not take antibiotics. I went to another acupuncturist instead. In one session, the abdominal pain was gone. But then - I started thinking that this new guy was less experienced, maybe I should trust the more experienced doc after all etc. Mistakenly perhaps, I went back to her. Again I started going 3 times a week. This time I started feeling air rising up into my throat every time she needled me - and a certain 'choking' feeling recurred thru the day. I started getting crackly, burning type pains in my wrists, ankles at night. I told her about it, she said its the changing weather (rainy season), damp is getting into my joints and I should start exercising. I did start mildly exercising, nothing changed. Then after 2.5 weeks of this, one day last week I started feeling itchy on the same joints and along my throat (where I used to feel the air rising). I go in and tell her - she clucks and does her needles.

When I went home from my session that day, I had a horrible, horrible attack of hives - huge red welts all over my lower body, my arms. terrible itching. Of course she was unavailble that evening and over the weekend, so i went to an allopathic doc who told me to take anthistamines, a single dose steroid and a seroid cream. I did, most reluctantly, as I know how harmful these are. But I wanted the itching to stop.

Two days since the hives broke out, the itching is a little better but it flares up in the evening again. I feel really really hot and my body temperature feels high (but no fever). It's just a feeling of great heat. The welts have reduced in size but they are still itchy. I have headaches. Terrible itch in my tailbone - redness and welts not helped there even by the steroid, the anti-histamine. I feel wind moving around in my head and tongue - I'm terrified I will have a stroke or get epileptic. Pressure in my jaw and a tic, sometimes. Itches and tics, sacrily enough, in the inner corner of my eye.

Now - what do you suppose she was doing wrong, that I go in with one set of problems as far back as April, I'm following the diet, going in regularly and I (a) still have the problems I went in with (b) have a bunch of other problems as well?

Should I just lay off acupuncture? I am so afraid that something is broken. Any advice or readings as to what may have happened will be most appreciated


It is really hard to offer much of anything definitive when you have such a range of issues going on. If I could physically inspect you I could tell you a lot more. Could you by chance send up a picture of your tongue and a list of all supplements, remedies, etc. that you take.

Both the hives and the vaginal infections are usually quite easy to treat herbally more than with acupuncture (although that is helpful as well and can do it exclusively). Without knowing your particular case and having physically inspected you, I can only guide. But for the hives, generally something like xiao feng wan for 1-2 weeks will stop those and the vaginal infection is usually cleared up with san jin wan or ba zheng wan - perhaps you can talk to your local practitioner and ask about those.

While it&#39s oddly nice to think that somehow all these strong reactions are part of a healing process, that is most often not the case. The hives sound like you are having a reaction to either the needles themselves or something in that particular office (a oil, a sanitizer, etc.) - particularly if you haven&#39t had that kind of reaction before. It&#39s hard to tell, however.

Personally, I would say this practitioner has had their chance and I would find someone else that you are more comfortable with. There are some odd things in your note that make me suspect about how good this practitioner is (being established and having years of experience does not, for better or worse, always dictate competence - there is far more going on in having a practice than straight results). But being second hand information and not privy to watching the entire exchange and what points were used, etc., I can not really speculate on that aspect other than to say I would very likely go somewhere else if there are choices.


Thanks for your input, Chad. Here are the points she started out using (I&#39d made furtive notes from the case sheet that was in the room for a bit before each session!!):

Ren12,6,4,3; St 25,28,29,40; LI11; SP 10,9,6; GB 34; Yintang; DU 20

Occasionally she would add other points - like when I complained about the stomach pain, she added LV 13 and LV 2 or 3 (couldn&#39t figure out hand writing) and CV 18 and TH 6 - for one session

There were times she&#39d also needle other points on my lower belly (not along the midline) but those were not written down so I don&#39t know. Ditto sometimes points around my knee - one right below the knee and one above and a little on the inside.

Sometimes she would add sinus points on my face.

She never needled: the insides of my arms, my upper arms or shoulders or my neck or my back or my thighs. She never used moxa and never stimulated the needles.

About my tongue - often it would be blackish-purplish in the middle - when i had abdominal pain. Right now it tends to be yellow-white starting say halfway down my tongue (from the tip), with a purplish patch a little bit inside of the tip and otherwise pinkish. Bitten edges from the start, which improved.

I will try and order the medicines you suggested - though impossible to find in India hopefully can get someone to ship them to me from the US.


What stands out the most for me here is the move to another country where basic protocol as a practitioner (of any sort) might be different. Perhaps the sterilization or cleanliness could be questioned or it is simply just what type of products that are being used that you&#39re reacting to. Either way, it sounds like you are having an allergic reaction to something being used rather than the treatment causing theses symptoms. (Needle type, lotion, aromatherapy, laundry detergent, herbs, etc.) Unless there were underlying &#39toxins&#39 that were being expelled (ie: healing crisis) the acupuncture points rarely cause these type of symptoms that make you feel worse. However, it is important to have a practitioner that will take your concerns and listen so I would find an acupuncturist you feel a good rapport with. After several bad experiences though, it might take a few times of feeling uneasy at first until you can build that trust with your practitioner again. Best of luck to you.


Yes we can make all dairy, all wheat, all juices, all tofu, anything cold and drinking even occasionally and also quit smoking and had had 3-4 glasses of beer and I felt so ill.


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