a wasp or yellow jacket, wasp sting

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. James
    East Texas

    I remember my grandmother told me, years ago, about having been stung on a finger tip, which finger also had arthritis. She reported she no longer arthritis in that finger.
    Shouldn’t a serious controlled study be done to confirm the effectiveness of bee venom?

  2. Rob

    Was stung near thumb by hornets yesterday. While experiencing pain and swelling from sting resent thumb tendon pain was gone will see how long it lasts. Interconnections to nature.

  3. Randy
    Birmingham, AL

    Yesterday I was stung by multiple yellowjacks on my right thumb and right knee. As luck would have it, I have mild arthritis in thumb and bone-on-bone in knee. Still some itching and swelling BUT thumb feels less pain than normal and right knee is very improved. I’ve had steroid and SynVisc shots in right knee in past so I know how that kind of treatment feels. The YJ relief was quick and I can (at least temporarily) walk down steps without feeling like I need to hold onto railing.

  4. Bill

    I was in the yard with my son this past July showing him where to cut the grass under the shrub. A swarm of yellow jackets came out of the ground and stung me 20 to 30 times on my arms, legs and feet. I was backing up and tripped and fell on the walkway and fractured my hip, while being stung. I had surgery the next day. Metal plate and 4 screws. I have gout, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, spondylosis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Before I was stung, I was laid up for 3 months on the sofa. I had a hernia surgery in October. After healing for several months, I noticed less back pain and hip pain. The hip I fractured is full of arthritis. I still feel a little discomfort in my hip, but I’m up and moving around and can do things I haven’t been able to do for 3 years. I think I have to give credit to the bees. I have no other explanation, unless it’s a miracle. I think it’s a miracle I was stung. I could have done without the fracture.

  5. Joe
    Albany, NY

    I have had arthritis pain in my right hip for several years now and was diagnosed with a “moderate” level of arthritis. I was stung 9 times on my right leg by yellow jackets and noticed a day later that although they itched like heck, my hip pain was greatly reduced, so much so I decided to try an hour run/walk combination. Three days later and still feeling real good.

    Yellow jackets stings are the worse and the itching almost unbearable for two days but I’d gladly have them sting me for the relief I’ve had so far.

  6. Frank K.
    Gulfport. Ms

    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)

  7. ltz

    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

  8. Bill M

    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!

  9. Brian

    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.

  10. GmamaDee

    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?

  11. lh

    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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