Q. I was stung on my left leg five times by yellow jackets. I have osteoarthritis in my left knee, and the pain has been gone since I was stung. I'm hoping that it will last!

If I had a choice, though I would definitely pick honeybee stings over yellow jackets as they’re much less painful.

A. You’re not the first person to share such a story with us. Years ago a reader wrote, “While snoozing on the porch I was stung on the finger by a tiny bee. The result: intense pain, and after that a great reduction of arthritis in my arm.”

Early in the 20th century, doctors used bee venom therapy to treat arthritis. Hospital pharmacies even stocked bee venom for these injections. After World War II, though, this approach appeared antiquated and unscientific and was no longer widely used.

Apitherapy, which uses bee stings medicinally, is undergoing a resurgence. Some proponents claim that honeybee stings can alleviate the pain of arthritis, shingles or tendinitis. Yellow jackets can be dangerous, however, and should not be used.

We talked to a number of experts at a meeting of the American Apitherapy Society. Anyone who would like to learn more about bee venom therapy can order a CD of the hour-long radio show. People allergic to bee stings must avoid this approach, since the reaction can be lethal.

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  1. Frank K.
    Gulfport. Ms
    Reply

    I was recently stung multiple times by Yellow Jackets on my legs, buttocks arms and chest I estimate upwards of 30 times. The pain was excruciating and lasted approximately 20 hours and slowly denigrated to annoying itching. I have a knee replacement in one knee and Osteoarthritis in the other. I took 2 Benadryl tablets and an Ibuprofen but did not experience any relief. (I do not like to take pain medication due to side effects.)

    After the pain from stings subsided I noticed a dramatic relief of pain in my knee joints, At first I thought I may be imagining the change. But as the days went by I have to accept the relief is real I’m able to rise from a sitting position without using my arms for support and am able to walk with much less pain. Go figure. Frank ( I will be 90 years of age on November 2, 2014)

  2. ltz
    Reply

    I have used bee sting therapy for arthritis in my ankle; it cured it completely after a painful regimen of 10 stings twice a week for 3 months. I am a beekeeper by trade and get stung a few times a week, but usually remove the stinger immediately, so little poison enters the body. It takes a lot of stings in one area over a course of time to work. Painful, but it works for many. Lloyd

  3. Bill M
    Reply

    I was stung on my left wrist by a yellow jacket and thought it would be interesting to see what would happen over the next few days because I suffer from arthritis in my wrists/hands (and other joints). I am a beekeeper and have heard of the potential benefits to receiving occasional stings from honeybees. I get stung once or twice a month and have not noticed any relief in arthritic symptoms.
    Back to the YJ sting. Days after the sting I was noticing more pain than usual. It’s been two weeks since the sting and as I type this the pain in my left wrist is severe. While sitting still it throbs with pain. My other arthritic joints all have just normal pain.
    If this continues thru the weekend, I’ll be seeing my doctor early next week.
    I make no conclusions, just sharing what I have experienced. The current pain in my left wrist may have been caused by some form of aggravation, but I have no idea what that could be as I’m on vacation.
    Good luck to all who suffer!

  4. Brian
    Reply

    I have Osteoarthritis in my ankles, wrists, and knees all as results of years of broken bone adrenalin junkie mishaps. This afternoon I was stung on the ankle by just one yellow jacket. While the initial sting was wicked it soon subsided and realized my ankle had a lot of movement and fluidity it normally does not. It’s been some 10 hours now and it still feels great minus a slight itch at the sting site. I know Yellow Jackets are bad but I’m going to look into the apitherapy or bee sting therapy now as a result.

  5. GmamaDee
    Reply

    I was stung 28 times after a unintended run in with a nest of yellow jackets this summer. After 2 doses of Benadryl and a prednisone, I noticed that for 8 to 10 hours all my joint pain was gone. I have heard of bees and treatment but not those mean painful YJs. Any studies done on YJ stings?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WE DON’T KNOW OF ANY. WE ALSO DON’T KNOW IF IT WAS THE STINGS OR THE PREDNISONE, WHICH CAN ALLEVIATE ARTHRITIS PAIN.

  6. lh
    Reply

    I had a similar experience some years ago with bee stings relieving arthritis pain. I don’t recall how long it lasted though. So i will try the bromelain, boswellia, curcumin remedy mentioned in your column for my arthritis pain.

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