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Severe pain flashes around shoulders/back/arm after acupuncture [done by physiotherapist]


I was in a car accident in October 2011 (t-boned) and I had whiplash symptoms in the right side of my neck and my lower back around the waist. I didn't miss too many college classes, but I had constant pain during my full-time studies. Recently, my physiotherapist performed acupuncture in a physio session (Feb 7 and Feb 17). On the 17th, the pain on insertion was higher than on the 7th, and after maybe four minutes, a needled area on my back SCREAMED at me. It was like the pain equivalent of a blood-curdling scream, VERY sudden and loud. A few minutes later, the same thing happened in my neck. When the therapist returned to the room and heard I was in pain, he put gentle heat on the area for a long time, and then we attempted gentle stretches but it was impossible. More heat was applied and then I went home in quite a bit of pain.

The pain was severe enough that I had to go to the ER for some strong painkillers and I took off six work days, and on the seventh day I only lasted an hour at work before the pain was overwhelming. A full 12 days after the treatment and my pain was inflamed with just a half hour of washing dishes (not vigorously). The next day, I had strong tingling and pain in my whole right arm, and an unexplained bruise on the inside of my forearm.

The pain dances over to areas that we're not needled and that's why I'm wondering:

What tests can I get that I can diagnose nerve issues? Or will this likely go away? It's been two and a half weeks!

Severe worsening of "back pain" symptoms after acupuncture

First off, this is reason #1 that you don&#39t get acupuncture from non-acupuncturists. Many pt&#39s, physio&#39s, chiro&#39s, md&#39s are all moving onto this dry needling/neuromuscular needling bandwagon without proper training in the fundamentals of acupuncture. What are they are doing is -not- acupuncture and they are generally -not- trained in Chinese Medicine - (they often have minimal training in needle insertion and in basic dry needling techniques).

Properly done by a fully trained and licensed acupuncturist - acupuncture has an extremely low possibility of ever hurting someone and has a tremendous track record of significantly helping any type of pain related case.

That said, I&#39m sorry this has happened to you - it shouldn&#39t be allowed to happen legally. As for what happens with this type of non-acupuncture needling techniques it is more likely to cause nerve and tissue damage. Now this will likely heal (see my many other replies to similar questions on the forums - search "pain after acupuncture") - it just takes some time. Going for further tests will be a waste of time and money as there is little than can be done on the western spectrum.

Perhaps counterintuitively, however, seeing a fully trained and licensed acupuncturist can be extremely helpful in these cases to undo the damage that has been done. Ideally one who also practices cupping (most do) and tuina (some do) - which are other important parts of Chinese Medicine as a whole.

You will be fine, but tissue damage of this nature (on it&#39s own) can take 6-15 weeks to heal. With true acupuncture and associated Chinese Medicine techniques this can be significantly shortened in most cases.


Thanks Chad, I&#39ve read your other comments and am grateful for the advice since my GP wasn&#39t sure what to do and sometimes the patient has to ask for tests.

So if anyone reading this is considering letting a PT insert needles, DON&#39T DO IT. This is a really bad stinging, burning pain shooting around my body like fireworks! Cost me my desk job because I can&#39t just take several weeks off (no sick leave in my province).

I wouldn&#39t go to a PT I don&#39t trust so I agreed without knowing what credentials to ask about, and the first treatment was asymptomatic and side effects are rare - for true acupuncture as you said. Now I feel like I was duped. The PT said he didn&#39t study TCM, but I&#39d heard that some western practitioners practice it outside the context of TCM so I didn&#39t know it was a red flag.

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