Acupuncture on my wrist for swelling?

So, I know that acupuncture, much like other non-western based medicines, tends to draw a lot of ire and criticism. And if someone told me they were going to increase the flow of my Qi using it, I would join them in their harsh skepticism.

But last week, the physiotherapist was telling me she wanted to try it to bring down swelling on my hand. I’ve had De Quervain’s tenosynovitis since July. Did physio with a bunch of ice, and eventually got a cortisone shot before Christmas. It was great for about 2 weeks, but some residual clicking and a bit of pain has returned. It’s annoying, and so I’ve thought long and hard about this acupuncture. The needles are sterilized and (presumably) she has some form of medical background; my sports doctor recommended me to that clinic. So I’m not worried about her making it worse. But is it a waste of time, or could it possibly do something to help? If anyone would like to anecdotally share their experience with it working/not working, I’d appreciate it.


*Quackwatch *on acupuncture.

When I hurt myself, I go to a sports medicine specialist who feels that acupuncture MAY (as in possibly, but not sure) have value similar to the theory behind prolotherapy. Basically: creating irritation or very mild injury in order to stimulate healing. With prolotherapy, something mildly irritating but ultimately harmless, such as dextrose or lidocaine, is injected into a joint which causes localized inflammation. The theory goes that the body responds to the inflammation by going into “repair mode”.

So, my doctor thinks that acupuncture may possibly cause a similar type of localized inflammation with similar theoretical benefits. HOWEVER, there just aren’t a lot of good, reliable, and comprehensive studies out there to back-up the effectiveness of prolotherapy. There have been some, but not a whole lot. One from 2007 from a Canadian hospital did conclude that prolotherapy had clinical benefits, and it has become popular in the treatment of sports injuries, but to my knowledge there hasn’t been any really reputable, large scale clinical studies. That being said, my doctor was saying that IF the theory behind prolotherapy is correct and it does yield positive results, the acupuncture MIGHT work on a similar premise, by causing localized inflammation that triggers tissue repair. He said he does have patients who do seem to benefit from it, but overall he is skeptical.

As for anecdotal evidence. My partner has had no success with acupuncture treating a tendon/ligament injury in her arm, but my MIL has had some success with acupuncture for a neck/shoulder problem.

Two studies that the Dopers will not accept, but that I want to bring up at least once in this topic:

A couple of German Health insurances (Krankenkassen) did a big study several years back about using acupuncture instead of pain medication. They choose three degenerative diseases with obvious non-healing treatment - that is, the conventional recommended treatment was only to alleviate the pain, because the degeneration itself could not be healed. One was back pain, one was joints and I forgot the third.

The patients were volutunteers and put into three groups: group 1 got only pain medication (same as before, control). Group 2 got acupuncture and as much pain meds. as they asked for. Group 3 got only acupuncture.
All groups rated how much pain they were in = how effective the treatment was before (= only conventional treatment) and during the test.
Group 2 used less pain meds. than group 1, or before, and like Group 3, a percentage bigger than 50% was sufficiently pain-free with just acupuncture.

Obviously, this was not a double-blind study, and because people volunteered, there was likely a higher amount of people predisposed to believe in (= high placebo effect).

Nevertheless, the advantages of lowering pain meds. and thus reducing side effects (liver / kidney damage…) and lower costs plus the increasing wish of many patients was convincing enough for the health insurances to officially approve acupuncture in certain instances as paid-for treatment.

Second study: done at an East German university. Report was in the lay science magazine Bild der Wissenschaft, I think end of the 90s, early 2000s. The method was different: they wanted to discover if there was any measureable basis to the claim of energy flow or if it was all just placebo. So the doctorate students set up a group of volunteers, blindfolded them and administered a local anesthetic to the hands and lower arm (in order to cut out any reaction due to placebo or just pain). The volunteers were hooked up to EEGs. Randomly selected, some of them were acupunctered at the certain points, while others were not.

They recorded measureable reactions in the brain of those volunteers who were pricked, despite the numbing that prevented pain signals traveling to the brain.

Caveat: acupuncuture in Germany is regulated. The approved acupuncturists have one system, not 5 or 6. They don’t make any outragous claims as to healing cancer or similar, and they always come after you’ve seen a doctor. It’s part of a treatment to help the body’s self-healing system.

IANADoctor, so I can’t estimate your diagnosis and judge if acupuncture would help. I also don’t know how trained your therapist is.

“You know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.”-Tim Minchin

I’d say it’s time for a new physiotherapist. Acupuncture is not medicine. In this case, it seems your physiotherapist is desperate to find a cure and willing to subject you, your body, your money, and your insurance company to fraudulent chicanery.

That said, years ago I did go to an acupuncturist. I had some lower back pains and tried it out and while the sandalwood burned and the CD player spun some calming nature sounds, my back, arms, legs were pricked with allegedly sanitized fresh needles. Laying face down on a massage table covered with a fitted sheet, my head uncomfortable in that head rest I let my body relax and I fell asleep. I woke up when the acupuncturist came back in the room to remove the pins and while I felt well rested, the pain was still there. So if you need an expensive nap, I still wouldn’t recommend it.

I would ask to see what your physiotherapist’s acupuncture credentials are. I would NOT assume that anyone other than a licensed acupuncturist has acupuncture training. MD’s and dentists are allowed to practice acupuncture with no training it in whatsoever, and I’d demand to see *their *credentials (a weekend workshop? A three year Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine? Something in between?) so I’m not going to give a physiotherapist a break.

I worked for an acupuncturist for several years, and some of her results were simply astounding. Some were just modest, but there were very few who derived no benefit whatsoever. I did careful followup on people who didn’t return, and only a handful said it was because they didn’t get relief; most of the time if someone didn’t return, it was because the problem resolved (yay!) or they couldn’t afford her (boo!).

The master speaks.

I have chronic shoulder problems, and I’ve seen an acupuncturist for it a time or three. One guy was a complete quack, and I shoulda seen that from the get-go. No improvement ensued. The other times was at a school in Austin(students treating me under the direct supervision of an instructor) and boy, howdy, did it ever help. Not permanently - to do that you’d have to realign a lot of soft tissue in my joint, and a couple little pins can’t do that! - but I can attest that it provided real pain relief that lasted at least a week each time.

I am extremely sceptical of all that woo-woo crap so I’m fairly certain placebo effect was not involved. I cannot tell you why it worked (that whole “Chee/Qi” stuff makes me :rolleyes:) but I can tell you that it worked (cite: I said so!).

Can’t hurt; might help.

My ex, who is a staunch woo skeptic, was super surprised when acupuncture worked on his chronic neck pain.

I’ve never tried it myself. But I’m reserving judgment, and I’d probably give it a go if I thought it might help. Because of the nature of the treatment, it is impossible to study it separately from the placebo effect, though. So I’ll remain skeptical, seeing as I haven’t needed it yet. But I can’t discount it entirely, and won’t unless I try it and it fails.

Acupuncture is the only treatment for which I’d say this. I had been against it for a long time as quackery. Now I’m merely reserving judgment.