Find an acupuncturist...

Ask an expert - general

235 questions

It is rather difficult for us to comment on the clinical strategies of individual practitioners. Without reference to the notes or the patients themselves we are reluctant to make observations which may be then used to criticise or take issue with a practitioner.

in general, we can say that there has been some research into the use of acupuncture for fibromyalgia, as our factsheet shows

but it is far from conclusive. Our clinical experience is that it can take a very long time for the problem to resolve, and it is almost always a complex presentation involving both physical and emotional issues. When we take on patients with fibromyalgia we are always very clear that it will probably be a long haul, and that progress will be slow.

From this perspective we are a little puzzled about the frequency of your treatment. We would normally only treat someone this often in an acute situation, like a locked back, and this mirrors what happens in China where quite often a course of treatment will involve daily treatment for ten days. Without knowing exactly what your presenting symptoms were we are a little surprised that your practitioner has worked in this way. However, eighteen years of experience means that she may well have hit upon a way that works for her and for her patients, and if so and if her professional judgement is that this is an effective way to treat you, then it is worth sticking with it.

However, we are always very clear with our members that a patient to whom everything has been explained and from whom informed consent is given at every stage is usually a happy patient. We recommend that members review progress with their patients every five to ten sessions so that everyone is in the clear about how things are going. This also gives a patient  a chance to ask questions about what is happening. Good communication is everything!

Perhaps the best thing to do is discuss matters with your practitioner if you are feeling a little uncertain. Our view has always been that a responsible practitioner will always listen to patient concerns. If they don't, then that becomes a factor in deciding whether to continue!


If we are talking about straight causation, like an adverse effect from treatment, then the answer is probably not. There are many surveys of adverse events, and colds and flu are not recorded as an adverse effect of treatment. With over 4 million treatments a year in the UK there are bound to be a number of coincidences where a cold or flu virus takes hold at the same time as a treatment but is not directly related to it.

Having said that, there are occasions when treatment can release pathogens which the body has stored but not properly dealt with, and it is just on the margins of possibility that this might have happened. The ancient Chinese saw the symptoms of what we now explain as viruses arising from 'invasions' of pathogenic factors, often expressed as cold, wind or damp. If the body has had such an invasion but the person's constitutional energy has not been strong enough to expel it fully it might take treatment at a later date to 'release' the problem. If this were the case then someone might experience a short and sharp return of symptoms. The effect would be short-lived, though; this is like a ripple on the surface as something leaves rather than a full scale viral attack. Although this can happen, the 'getting worse to get better' effect, it is not that common.

The confounding factor in giving an explanation, however, is that if acupuncture treatment was only a part of what was done in a holistic treatment there may have been other interventions or modalities which could have been responsible for what happened. 

On balance, though, we suspect it was a probably coincidence, and hope that it has not been too troublesome for you.



File under general - general

We have to say at the outset that we are not experts in electroacupuncture. Although a significant minority of our members do use EA machines we ourselves only train in traditional acupuncture with manual stimulation, and the kinds of sophisticated instruction in how best to use the machines is not a part of our training. You might find that the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists might be more helpful in that respect because its members more regularly use these machines as an adjunct to their work.

We have looked carefully at the major textbook on electroacupuncture, David Mayor's authoritative volume published a decade ago, and there are no cautions about the use of EA on scar tissue, nor any reports of muscle tearing after EA treatment. We have also conducted a very thorough search of all the databases on adverse events after acupuncture treatment, and there have been no case reports of this kind.

This is not to say that anyone could categorically say that it can't happen; anything is possible and there has to be a first times for any adverse event to happen. However, given the vast extent of the use of EA in China and the Far East we would have expected there to be some mention of any similar adverse events, and there is none.

We are not sure whether your question is an general one or a question based on something which has happened to you. All we can suggest if it is the latter is to go to the professional association to which the practitioner belongs and ask for the matter to be investigate and possibly passed on to their professional insurers if you have suffered any detriment after treatment.

We are sorry that we cannot be more helpful, but as we say, this is not really our field of expertise. 


We would hesitate to use the word 'normal' but it is not unheard of to experience small bumps and itching where needles have been inserted. By far the most common cause is a slight allergic reaction to one of the metals in the needle itself. The stainless steel from which nearly all needles are made often contains traces of other metals, especially nickel, and many people are surprisingly allergic to this. There are also a great many needles which now have a silicone coating to make them easier to insert, and there are a number of people who are surprisingly allergic to this.

Aside from reaction to specific chemicals or metals, there are a number of people who seem for no reason at all to be highly reactive to needles. This can often be useful diagnostic information from a Chinese medicine point of view, and a practitioner can adjust treatment to a degree to address the issue and also try to minimise the effect.

There is no need to be concerned. These sorts of reaction usually last for no more than 24-48 hours, and have usually subsided by then. There is nothing to worry about as far as infection is concerned. Everyone now uses single use disposable needles which are never re-inserted and come already sterilised. 

The best thing to do is to have a chat with your practitioner and get their advice. If the reaction continues beyond 48 hours then it may be worth seeing your GP to get hold of some antihistamine medication and let them have a look at what is going on, but we think that you are unlikely to need to do this. We sincerely hope not anyway|


File under general -- general

We think that with the range of symptoms you have, and considering their nature, the first thing to do if you haven't already done so is to visit your GP to see what they make of the signs and symptoms. There are a number of quite serious conditions which can generate symptoms like this, and the first thing we would do if you came to us would be to refer you to your doctor for examination and blood tests. This would eliminate some of the possibilities at a stroke, but may actually lead to an important diagnosis and treatment.

If it turns out that there is nothing to be worried about in conventional medicine terms, then it would be advisable to visit a BAcC member local to you for them to take a look at what is happening. We can think of a number of reasons why the problem might be manifesting, when viewed from our perspective, but without sight of the problem itself we would be reluctant to start making guesses which would in all probability be wrong.

We would also be looking at dietary and environmental factors which might be involved. A surprising number of our patients have allergies and sensitivities of which they are not aware and which cause reactions across the body. The same sometimes happens with cosmetics and detergents. We are sure you have looked at factors like this, but we always check because it can cause these sorts of problems.

Even if there is no obvious cause from a Chinese medicine point of view, we hold the view that putting the system back in balance will always help to reduce symptoms. There is also a very considerable body of evidence about the use of acupuncture for pain relief, and while this can never guarantee that the problem will go it can sometimes offer long stretches without discomfort, for which many patients are very grateful.

As we said, however, this is an unusual problem for which it would be necessary to examine what was happening before venturing a view about how amenable it would be to treatment.


Post a question

If you have any questions about acupuncture, browse our archive or ask an expert.

Ask an expert

BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

Browse the facts