Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Treatment for Stroke Patients
Treating Strokes with Acupuncture
By: Wei Liu, MD, MPH, L.Ac.
Chinese medicine distinguishes two general types of stroke: the most severe type attacks the internal organs as well as the energy pathways (meridians); the milder type attacks only the meridians. In treating the severe type, acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are combined with Western drugs to relax spasm, subdue wind, open the orifices, resolve phlegm, and lower blood pressure. Patients with the milder type of stroke are treated primarily with acupuncture to open the meridians and promote Chi and Blood flow.
Acupuncture is the most popular treatment modality for stroke patients in China, used effectively on 85% of the stroke patients there. When Margaret Naeser, a neurology professor at Boston University School of Medicine, went to China in the 1980s, she was surprised to see that acupuncture treatments were considered to be the most important part of stroke rehabilitation at Chinese hospitals. She was even more impressed when she saw how effective such treatment was, and began to study acupuncture scientifically when she returned home. Since then,
scientific evidence has been accumulating in the West.
A controlled study conducted at the Lund University Hospital in Sweden provided several interesting findings. It found that a group of 38 patients who received acupuncture
treatments twice a week for ten weeks reported significant improvements in the areas of walking, balance, emotions, quality of life, ease of daily activity, and mobility in comparison with a control group of 40 patients who did not receive acupuncture treatments. The Acupuncture Group spent fewer days in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities than the Non-Acupuncture Group, with an average savings of $26,000 per patient. In the follow-up period, it was found that one year after suffering their stroke and receiving treatment, 89% of the patients in the Acupuncture Group were living at home vs. 66% of the patients in the Non-Acupuncture Group.
Scientific studies indicate that acupuncture can: facilitate nerve regeneration; decrease blood viscosity; prevent the aggregation of blood cells, dilate blood vessels by triggering the release of hormones; and help surviving nerve cells find new pathways, effectively by-passing damaged parts of the brain. Acupuncture has also been found to be helpful in the treatment of headache, dizziness and hypertension in stroke patients.
I have treated many stroke patients and they typically improve not only in their mobility and strength, but also in their emotional response. As they notice the improvement in their condition, they feel less depressed and are motivated to do their exercises.