Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks

First Published February 15, 2003









Herniated Disc
Worse with Acupuncture?
by Brian Benjamin Carter


I have a herniated thoracic disc (T8 or T9), and a very painful hypersensitivity to anything light touching my back to the entire right of the area. I got the herniation and painful hypersensitivity from an accident back in April. I went for physical therapy until I reached a plateau. I chose not to have any nerve blocks. I wanted a more natural approach. I have gone to an acupuncturist who is also a Dr. of orthopedics for about 9 treatments for the pain. He is well known with a good reputation.My pain from the herniation WAS a lot better over this time. The painful hypersensitivity was also getting better little by little.

Last week, about 1/2 hr after my treatment until now, I am in such pain. It is mostly like the painful hypersensitivity that I have not experienced since this allodynia pain practically began. It is radiating from my area where I have the herniation to the area on my back adjacent to it.. It is also painful where my herniation is. I haven't felt pain there like that since I first herniated it. I am even in discomfort laying on my back in bed, which I never had. I don't know what happened last week, but I am quite concerned about going back for more treatments.

The only thing I remember, is that when he inserts the needles, they NEVER hurt, and this time there were a couple that really hurt. I told the Dr. and he took them out. Could that have caused such pain?? Could it have hit or damaged a nerve? Could it possibly have reherniated the disc? Can acupuncture reverse such a thing that happened.?

I would so greatly appreciate your expertise on this. I have come such a long way, and I feel I am right back at the beginning. I will call up my regular orthopedic Dr. to confer with him, but I feel that your experience with acupuncture as a whole is more extensive.

Thank you so kindly for helping me with this. I know your schedule is busy, but I would so greatly appreciate your input.




Here is what one expert on musculoskeletal acupuncture, Matt Callison, L.Ac., says about your case:

"I believe one possibility is: The doctor hit the medial or lateral posterior nerve from the posterior ramus. This can be done by Huatuojiaji and back shu needling. Strong Qi like this could have caused local myospasms, further impinging on the vertebrae/disc. Pain/spasm and inflammation resulting in vertebra instability."

That means nearby muscles may have spasmed, and would need to be released. That can be done by needling their motor point. Your acupuncturist, especially as an orthopedist should know how to do this.

However, it's not clear from your email whether he was formally trained in acupuncture or not. M.D.'s who practice acupuncture (we could call that 'medipuncture') are held to no minimum standards of competency, nor are they required to have any experience before they begin to experiment on patients.

I'd advise always seeing an acupuncturist with 3-4 years of education in chinese medicine, or a medipuncturist whose practice is primarily acupuncture.

Hope this helps!

Let me know how things go and if you have any further questions.


Hi Brian,

Thank you so very much for your response to me. It meant so much that you took the time in your busy schedule to reply.

Your analysis sounds right on the mark.

Since with each passing day, my pain and spasm has gotten less. I have decided not to return to that acupuncturist. Shortly after this happened to me, I spoke with his receptionist about what happened, and the doctor has not even returned my call, even after all this time.

I believe so greatly in acupuncture as a treatment for so many different ailments. I am not disillusioned by my experience.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy New Year.


Find a licensed acupuncturist here: "Resources for Finding Acupuncturists and Herbalists"

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