cactusCardiovascular accident (CVA) or stroke was identified by both early western physicians and by Chinese physicians over 2000 years ago.  It is known in China as wind-stroke. Acupuncture was in use to treat wind-stroke during that early period and remains popular in China today. In a recent study of two prestigious hospitals in Beijing, CVA rehabilitation (wind-stroke) was reported as the second most common reason for seeking acupuncture. In contrast, the number of cases of individuals being treated for stroke using acupuncture in this country is quite low. Current western medical treatment has only been in use for the treatment of stroke during the past few decades.  While they vary in many respects, both western medical treatments and traditional Chinese medical treatments can be helpful in prevention and treatment of stroke or wind-stroke. It is hoped that as acupuncture and Chinese medicine become more popular and accepted in this country, that our world-view will include acupuncture as a standard procedure for the treatment of problems related to stroke.

Tucson DesertThose who have suffered from a stroke know how discouraging it can be to find any type of medical help after the initial hospital stay and short period of physical therapy. Few people in this country are even aware that acupuncture can be beneficial, especially when utilized in the early stages. Even fewer are aware of specialized forms of acupuncture such as the scalp acupuncture techniques of Ming Qing Zhu, which are becoming more popular for stroke rehabilitation. (see information on this website about scalp acupuncture)

Benefits of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine may include:

  • Greater use of hands and legs
  • Better mobility
  • Muscles relaxation
  • Reduction in pain
  • Cognitive improvementsEmotional improvements
  • Improved sleep
  • Improvement in bladder and bowel difficulties
  • Help with difficulty speaking

Stroke VictimIdeally, acupuncture treatments should begin soon after diagnosis. Best results are obtained with treatment within the first two to three months after symptoms appear. In the acute stage, treatments are given several times per week at first and gradually reduced in frequency. The number of treatments will vary depending on the individual, the severity of the stroke and the length of time from the initial stroke until treatment is begun.

In this clinic, much cooperation is needed between the practitioner, the patient, and the family, especially in the acute stage.  When treatment is begun early, there is greater chance of recovering function. In addition to acupuncture, scalp acupuncture, and herbal formulas, a great deal of therapeutic exercise should be done at home between treatments. This homework includes repetitive exercises to retrain the brain and improve circulation. If there is a loss of speech, the homework may include repetition of sounds and words. Often 4 to 6 hours of daily exercise is recommended for best recovery. Assistance by family and friends is necessary for optimal results.

If acupuncture is begun several months or years after the stroke, less chance remains of recovering full function. Often by this time, the muscles have become more rigid and pain may be more of an issue. At this stage, acupuncture can be used for relaxing the muscles, reducing pain and other symptoms.

Techniques that may be employed to achieve optimal effectiveness for those with stroke include:

Acupuncture- thin, sterile needles may be used on many areas of the body, depending on the symptoms and the individual. Acupuncture will help bring the body back into a more balanced state, improve circulation, and reduce pain. Studies have shown that acupuncture causes the brain to release endorphins and other beneficial hormones.

Scalp Acupuncture- used for those with stroke to help increase mobility, coordination, and speech. The tiny needles are placed on certain areas of the head and then manipulated slightly. It is believed that the movement of the needles along with movement of the affected body parts helps signal the brain to release neuro-hormones to help repair damage in the body.

Chinese Herbs- these herbs are often an important part of the therapy. Different herbs have different actions, such as increasing circulation to the brain or to rigid limbs, decreasing pain, or increasing energy and stamina. Certain combinations of herbs have been used specifically for those suffering from problems related to stroke. Often these formulas are modified according to individual symptoms. Be sure to notify your acupuncturist of any medications you are taking, as certain herbs may be contraindicated.

Exercise- repetitive, therapeutic exercise is a very important part of treatment after a recent stroke. Several hours of therapy may be suggested. Even in later stages of stroke, it is important to keep the body moving for good circulation, to help keep blood pressure in check and to prevent further muscle rigidity. Often the patient is fatigued and may need encouragement to exercise. Physical family activities such as walking, dancing, bowling, and golf, are beneficial.

Dietary Suggestion- because there is such a variety of individuals who have had strokes and different stages of recovery, dietary suggestions will vary. Overall, it is best to adhere to a balanced, varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Greasy, fried food, processed foods and salty or sugary foods should be avoided. Obtaining and maintaining an appropriate weight is important to maintain health.

Other suggestions- Regular check ups with your physician are encouraged. Blood pressure should be checked on a regular basis.

If this stroke is a concern of yours, alternative medicine at Desert Sands may benefit you. Working as a team, we can form a treatment plan that best meets your health needs. To begin your return to a healthier lifestyle, you may contact me at (520) 780-1230.

Jill Darban, L.Ac., Dipl.OM, MT, SH
Desert Sands Acupuncture- Tucson, AZ