One of my colleagues, Fred Swing MD from Florida, has been treating patients with non-healing wounds from brown recluse bites with electro-acupuncture around the wound combined with body acupuncture for several years. He first told me about this treatment and his good results in 1998.
Dr Swing recently presented his study and treatment protocol at the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. It was a very interesting presentation as he showed the pictures of the wounds before treatment and during the course of the acupuncture treatments to complete healing. (Maybe you have to be a physician to think the pictures were interesting!) His patients had the wounds for months to years prior to initiating acupuncture treatment. We were able to see the immediate decrease in swelling after the first treatment and the beginning of healing in the wound called granulation. It took 3-5 mo for the complete healing of the wound to occur. This is actually not a long time for a brown recluse bite.
He reported that the venom from a brown recluse spider has 9 different poisonous enzymes similar to rattlesnake venom but 100 times stronger. The venom causes the blood vessels to constrict and the tissue to be destroyed which is called necrosis. The venom can last up to 5 years producing non-healing wounds throughout this time. He found that with his patients if healing had occurred with the acupuncture treatment they also didn’t get new non-healing wounds.
While I have never seen a patient with a brown recluse wound as of this writing, I have used acupuncture to help non-healing, slow healing ulcers or wounds to heal. It works very well in many patients. It helps increase circulation to the area and to reorganize the skin cells to normal or near normal. I have also used acupuncture in patients to speed post-surgical wound healing. Often it can help decrease the scarring in wounds & surgical incisions.
In patients with underlying diseases such as diabetes, venous stasis, vascular insufficiency the healing can require persistent treatment for some time until healing is complete. Also if one smokes he/she will have to stop as this also causes the blood vessels to constrict and slows healing. Good nutrition is also key in helping to speed the healing. Acupuncture is a good treatment option to add to the total treatment plan to aid wound healing or even brown recluse wounds.
K Bynum, DO