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Pain in leg after acupuncture


I’ve recently been introduced to acupuncture. It really seemed to be helping me. Today was my 4th visit and when a needle was placed in the back of my leg behind my knee I immediately felt pain and after a minute the pain shot up my leg/ thigh. It was a bigger needle with a spring on the end. I asked the person who was doing it to take it out right away after wiggling it around she did. She has been practicing for 30 years. Every visit she seems to use more and more of the bigger needles.

The sensation felt like a nerve was hit. This was 5 hours ago, now I have a lot of pain in my leg where the needle was inserted and pain going both up and down my leg.

Is this something I need to worry about?

Can this lead to nerve damage?

Is it possible that a needle can break off?

Is there anything I can do to ease the pain? Tried ice, that made it worse. My husband says try heat.

I know this only happened today but it seems that you shouldn’t experience this kind of pain.


I’ve unfortunately answered questions like this many times on the forums - search “pain after acupuncture” and you will find many of them. My general answer is summed up in this previous post.

More than likely you will be fine in a few days. In that area, nothing you can do besides possibly lightly massaging --around-- the area (not on) will make it any quicker. It is from nerve irritation from too aggressive techniques (which I don’t agree with) and it will be fine. It can take a few days to a few months depending on the level of nerve irritation. Longer than a week or so is quite rare.


Thank you so much for your quick response. Is there any possibility that a needle could have broken off? Is it even possible for a piece of a needle to travel through a nerve? Last night I woke up with a pain in my tailbone. This morning I had lower back pain. This evening I have pain in the middle of my back.

My acupuncturist says I should come in and says she can help me with the pain I’m still feeling in my leg. She really has helped me with a problem I was having where I received no answers from several doctors. But at this point I am extremely nervous to go back to her. Do you think I should find another acupuncturist? If so how does one find a good acupuncturist? I would have to insist on no larger needles and that they not be inserted too deep.

Acupuncture is all new to me but seems to be what I need since it worked so well and quickly. Im sorry for what are probably off the wall questions. I have read a few bad reactions online and I feel the need to be very cautious.


What were you going to acupuncture for?


While it is technically possible for a needle to break, it’s very unlikely and I would really doubt that someone with her amount of experience would fail to notice something like that. And no it is not possible for a broken needle shard to travel along the nerve.

Pain that moves around that is easily explained by TCM theory and it is something that is relatively common to occur after a treatment. If you were getting good results with her I would stick with her and just tell her you would prefer she does not use a more aggressive technique with you in the future.


I’d like to offer a contrasting opinion. Your responsibility as a patient is not to dictate the style of treatment but to either (a) trust that what they are doing is necessary and helpful and continue working with them or (b) don’t. Telling them what techniques to use or not use is incorrect in my opinion… Who are you to judge what technique you need or not?

Now a discussion about what happened is appropriate and necessary, but telling the practitioner what to do and what not to do is not the way to continue treatment in my opinion. You are not qualified to make that call and, honestly, it should rarely, if ever, come up no matter how much “experience” the practitioner has.

Most basic pain issues which I’m assuming you had based on the use of UB 40 (or knee problems I suppose), are relatively easy to treat with acupuncture and nearly any fully licensed acupuncturist will be able to help you. There are certainly a range of techniques, however, but I personally find the unnecessarily aggressive techniques tiresome and these ongoing stories of people being hurt from acupuncture entirely unnecessary.

Further, pain that “moves around” is possibly easily explained in cases, but that is not what you are describing. You are describing clear nerve irritation. Did the needle break off, no, - will you be fine, yes with 99.9% certainty. But did the practitioner irritate the nerve through either improper or too aggressive (or both) techniques, yes. Should you leave them and find someone else, that depends somewhat on what you are treating and what your overall comfort with them (as they practice, not how you’d like them to practice).

Again, most practitioners will get decent results with the vast majority of common complaints, the responses only separate a bit with more complicated layered cases where deeper experience and more out of the box thinking is required - things that only come with experience with complicated cases (not just experience in general).

As for how to find an acupuncturist, usually word of mouth is best. Generally speaking if anyone is going to use aggressive techniques they will be Asian - most westerners just don’t use those techniques (some do). Generally Japanese acupuncture will be the lightest techniques, still very effective. My personal preference is to only see people who practice the full gamut of Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbs, and particularly tuina - chinese medical massage, cupping, moxa, etc.) - basically a good well rounded practitioner with more touch experience. Practitioners who have a background in massage, professionally, are also quite good.

Either way you will be fine, but just for the clarity of the internet posts I want to state my opinion on this issue as definitively as possible to help others who come across this - as it happens way too often in my opinion. Far too often acupuncture is the last resort of people who get no help from any number of other options - so when it is done poorly or people have a bad experience it bothers me. This is because it simply shouldn’t happen very often if at all in my opinion. Now these issues are experienced by patients less so in the US and even less in the US with licensed acupuncturists, but more often elsewhere and more often elsewhere with practitioners of other styles (chiro, md’s, pt’s, etc.) who are “doing acupuncture”.

I hope you get everything figured out. I’m fairly certain you will find someone that you are both comfortable with and that is helpful for you.


I’m so happy to have this community board it it extremely helpful. Thank you so much! I have been staying off of my feet and the pain is much better. I really appreciate your advice and sharing your knowledge. I do however have some new issues that have come up. I hope that you can help me.

I was seeing the acupuncturist for a horrible rash on my neck. It started at my hair line and went down my neck about 8 inches. It was extremely inflamed, bright red, unbelievably itchy, painful, & spreading to the front of my neck and down my back. It started with a small circle at the very top of my spine after I took two courses of Diflucan for yeast overgrowth. I had thrush after taking anabiotics. I went to several different doctors including a dermatologist nothing that they offered helped the Itch or pain it just got worse. My husband looked for an acupuncturist / herbalist online and that is how I found my acupuncturist.

The acupuncturist gave me Chinese herbs. She did not tell me what any of the herbs were. She kind of laughed when I asked for the name but I was so grateful that everything was working and did not push it any further. She was treating me for kidney heat and lung heat. She had me see her Monday Wednesday and Friday I had dramatic results my rash is almost gone between the acupuncture treatments and the herbs. I felt so much heat being released I felt it constantly. SHe also gave me an herb for constipation that did not work and gave me another herb for constipation which worked overnight. Those herbs gave me diarrhea for about two days. The last time I had diarrhea was this morning. The last time I had herbs was last night I have not had any herbs today.

I feel like I’m dehydrated I have been very jittery, lightheaded, tired, extremely thirsty, dizzy and I also noticed that my skin is yellow.
Also, my body temperature goes from cold to hot but I do not have temperature it is always around 98.

Is all of this due to detox from the herbs? The yellow skin has me really worried and feeling of dehydration. I get a very slight headache and slight lower back ache for the past two mornings.

I Highly respect the acupuncturist she is giving me dramatic results but when I call her she does not give me any clear answers and just keeps saying trust me. I’m a person who needs explanation when my health is involved.


I woke up this morning feeling the same dehydrated feeling also feeling weak almost anemic. My tongue when I first went in was mostly pink with a thick yellowish color in the center of the back of my tongue. This morning I have a completely white tongue.

Is this from detox?

Could it be because I stopped my herbs too soon?


If the above is true, then just trust her and the process (and unless it’s an emergency don’t call her - but wait for your appointment to discuss items with her). Don’t worry too much about day to day changes, it’s more what happens over a few weeks to a few months that matters.

Ultimately, Chinese Medicine is very difficult to explain to laypeople as is western medicine for that matter. Western doctors aren’t asked to explain in biochemical terms how certain medicines work beyond the most basic concepts (they may not even know the answer). For acupuncturists, most often just saying yes I can help you is about all you can really say - although some practitioners try harder than others to explain some of the concepts --over time. Keep in mind that in complex cases particularly the first few treatments your practitioner is largely just feeling out what your deeper causes are by watching your response to the treatments. It is a live, dynamic, moving art and science that cannot be encapsulated in simple statements.

If you want to understand the basics of Chinese Medicine I suggest you read - “What Does Acupuncture Treat?” - which discusses pattern differentiation in Chinese Medicine as opposed to treating symptoms/conditions as is done in western medicine.


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