Leech therapy for osteoarthritis
Treatment with leeches (Hirudo medicinalis) is a very old therapy method that is currently experiencing a “renaissance” due to current scientific studies. In clinical examination, the treatment of knee and thumb joint wear (arthrosis) has proven to be very effective. Further areas of application from experience and naturopathy are shoulder, ankle and back pain, rheumatism and tennis elbow as well as neuralgia (nerve pain, e.g. after shingles).
The effectiveness of leech therapy can be explained by the saliva, which contains anti-inflammatory, blood circulation and pain relieving components. The exact composition is not yet known.
Course of treatment
The area to be treated should not be provided with soap, creams, perfumes or other fragrances one to two days before the leech therapy, otherwise the leeches are difficult to attach. You should also avoid foods that sweat profusely over the skin (e.g. garlic). On the day of treatment, please only clean the skin with clear water.
In practice, depending on the location, 2 to 6 leeches are used by us. You can count on 2-3 leeches for a thumb joint and 4-5 leeches for a knee joint. The leeches look for a suitable place and then bite. You notice this with a slight (rarely moderate) twitching or burning. They then remain in place and suck a few ml of blood until they are "full". In the meantime, the leeches release their healing saliva into the tissue. This takes about 30 to 120 minutes, on average about 60 minutes. The twitching symptoms subside over time because the leeches also release pain-relieving substances. Most patients report that the treatment is tolerable.
When the leeches are "full", they let go and are mobile again. Then they are collected by our employees. The resulting small wounds should bleed for a few minutes to clean. Finally, they are provided with a pressure bandage, which they should leave until the next day. In a few cases there is more bleeding. In this case, please change the dressing yourself at home and press the bite marks for a few minutes. The next day, please introduce yourself for wound control. As a rule, the bite site can then be provided with a normal plaster that you should leave for about 3 days. As long as you should avoid water applications in this area (showers with protection, e.g. bag, glove or film - please do not go swimming for 1 week!).
Possible side effects and complications
In any case, you will notice a slight pain, burning or twitching during the leech treatment, which will subside significantly after a few minutes. A small scar will appear at the bite sites, which is initially red and swollen and will heal over the next few weeks. Very small pitted changes can persist for months to years, but are usually hardly visible.
After treatment, the region may occasionally become irritated, leading to increased pain for a few days. In addition - usually only with repeated leech therapy - a so-called "pseudo-allergic reaction" can occur with itching and rarely also slight reddening and swelling in the vicinity of the bite sites. Infection of the bite sites and possibly the surrounding skin areas (so-called phlegmon) is also very rare. Therefore, you should definitely introduce yourself to us as a check for increasing redness and swelling of the skin. Antibiotic therapy may be required in very rare cases.
The leech treatments are carried out by Dr. med. Gerrit Sütfels, who gained extensive experience in this field during his work in the clinic for naturopathy in Essen with Prof. Dobos and Prof. Michalsen.