Acupuncture For Stroke Recovery: How It Helps Rehabilitation Through Nerve Stimulation, Increases Muscle Strength & Improves General Well-Being.
Timing of Care
Beginning Acupuncture Treatments As Soon As Possible After An Incident Improves A Person's Chance For A Better Recovery. The More Time Passes, The Longer The Road To Recovery Becomes. Blood Pressure Must Be Stable Before Beginning Acupuncture Treatments.
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There are 3 Main Types of Stroke: Transient, Hemorragic and Ischimic
Acupuncture is best suited for transient and ischemic type stroke recovery and prevention of reoccurence. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke involves surgical intervention, however, once stabilized and cleared by their physician a patient may receive acupuncture for rehabilitation.
"Acupuncture is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an alternative and complementary strategy for stroke treatment and for improving stroke care. Clinical trial and meta-analysis findings have demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture in improving balance function, reducing spasticity, and increasing muscle strength and general well-being post-stroke." Citation: Internal Journal of Medical Science - Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy in Ischemic Stroke Rehabilitation: A Literature Review of Basic Studies by Lina M. Chavez, Shiang-Suo Huang, Iona MacDonald, Jaung-Geng Lin, Yu-Chen Lee and Yi-Hung Chen
There are scientific research studies explaining the mechanisms behind the benefits of acupuncture for stroke recovery. Listed here are 5 main benefits:
Promotion of neurogenesis and cell proliferation in the central nervous system (CNS)
Regulation of cerebral blood flow in the ischemic area
Anti-apoptosis in the ischemic area
Regulation of neurochemicals
Improvement of impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) and memory after stroke.
Here is Yu Dayi Chinese Medicine's L.A. Times News Article
"Acupuncture – "An Effective Treatment for Patient Recovery from Stroke," published Oct. 21st, 2018.
When patients think about acupuncture, they are most likely
to think that acupuncture is a methodology to treat pain. As we
have mentioned in our previous article, the second-largest
increase in healthcare spending is treatment for low back and
neck pain. Indeed, the awareness of acupuncture as an effective
healing modality has increased in our society due to acupuncture’s
capacity and growing reputation to treat pain. The rising number
of patients seeking acupuncture as a viable treatment for pain
opens up a platform for Acupuncture and Asian Medicine in a
Western Medicine based culture. Many patients are choosing
acupuncture as a complimentary medicine for their health issues.
Acupuncture has its own understanding of the dynamics and
mechanisms of the human body. Acupuncture is not limited to treating only pain symptoms. There have been many academic studies performed in regards to acupuncture and their results conclude that acupuncture is also effective in expediting patient recovery from numerous health issues. One of the most researched studies has been about acupuncture and motor recovery after stroke.
Shoubin Jia Yu, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Doctor at Yu Dayi Chinese Medicine Clinic, specializes in treating pain. However, he explains that many patients also come to see him seeking acupuncture treatment to improve from nerve injuries, such as stroke, and they have seen significant improvements in their health due to the methods of treatments.
Mr. Yu recalls one patient he treated in particular, a 24-year-old male named Kris who suffered from a genetic condition called Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), which results in weakened blood vessels to easily rupture in the brain under high pressure conditions. When Kris was 20 years old he started suffering from migraine headaches regularly. Due to the extreme pain he went to see a doctor twice and had a CT scan and an MRI performed. Both the CT scan and MRI could not reveal the cause nor indication of the pain and as a result, the doctor diagnosed it as a migraine headache. However, Kris did not believe these were simply migraine headaches and the medicines that the doctor prescribed were ineffective in treating the pain. No one had thought the migraines were actually early symptoms of his yet unknown genetic condition of AVM, until the day he fainted two years later at the age of 22 due to a stroke.
The rupture left Kris with hemiplegia, he had no movement on the left side of his body and he could not make any facial expressions. Initially, Kris went to physical therapy as part of his stroke recovery protocol, but he decided to stop after five months of treatment because he did not see much improvement from it. During these five months Kris became very depressed. His therapist had told him nothing could be done about his muscle weakness and the imbalanced gait he had. He was told that he would have to use a cane and wear a walking brace for life. He was also told to have botox treatments to assist with his muscle recovery, which Kris refused to partake in.
Kris had been so depressed that the therapist recommended Mr. Yu as a last resort. Kris had been disappointed with the results of the previous medical care he had thus far, that initially, he did not have much faith that acupuncture could help him. Nevertheless, Kris visited Mr. Yu for an initial treatment and was surprised when the acupuncture was administered he was able to open his clenched fist for the first time and relax some of his muscles. He continued to come to Mr. Yu for treatments because he always remembered that Mr. Yu always had an optimistic attitude that he would recover. This greatly encouraged Kris to continue his rehabilitation and bolster his confidence to persevere. Kris comments, “treatments by Mr. Yu help my rehabilitation progress so well that it keeps me coming back until I am fully recovered.” In fact, after just one month of treatment with Mr. Yu, Kris felt the powerful effects of acupuncture; he could already begin walking by himself! Kris also mentioned that although he has no background in acupuncture there was one interesting thing he noticed, which were the positive physical changes of his tongue. He describes that after his stroke he found that his tongue was black in color and he thought that the color would go away. He found that his tongue was still black after his first five months post-stroke. Yet, with Mr. Yu’s treatments, Kris found that his tongue went from black to pink within one week. These noticeable progresses and the fortunate meeting of another post-stroke patient of Mr. Yu’s, whom had completely recovered from the sequel of stroke due to an AVM rupture, greatly increased Kris’s faith in Mr. Yu and his results from acupuncture.
Kris has been having regular acupuncture treatments with Mr. Yu for about a year now. His rehabilitation process has been a long journey and Kris knows that if it wasn’t for the acupuncture treatments at he would be wearing a walking brace for the rest of his life. Kris mentions that his physical therapists managing his care told him that usually after 6 months post-stroke recovery progress slows down. However, since beginning his acupuncture treatments Kris has been able to improve upon his gross motor skills (large muscle movements) which steadily improves week by week. For example, he can hold a cup now to take a drink and he can open and close doors by himself, etc. His muscles have gradually become stronger and his gross motor skills are continually improving. It is his fine motor skills that take the longest to rehabilitate and he has been following Mr. Yu’s advice to practice piano and air guitar daily.
The other component to Kris’ treatment protocol is the regular use of Chinese Herbal medicine. Kris received custom herbal formulas, based on classic formulas for post-stroke recovery, for his body condition which helps him increase his energy levels, aid in smooth blood circulation and help nourish his muscles and tendons. Kris says, “taking the herbs have enhanced my energy levels for the whole day and help me endure weekly physical therapy training. Before, I could only walk 20 yards before becoming completely exhausted. They are so helpful. And, I would notice the positive effects of the herbs especially when I would not be able to come into acupuncture on some weeks, the herbs still helped between treatments.”
Although Kris began seeing Mr. Yu five months after his stroke, Kris’s only regret is that he did not meet Mr. Yu earlier. Ideally, the best time to treat motor recovery after a stroke is within three months after the onset of the stroke. This is because in the early stage of thrombosis not all the brain cells around the lesion have become necrotic, and the state and activity of most cells are still reversible at that early stage. If acupuncture is performed at this time it can help to dilate the blood vessels around the lesion and improve the ischemia and hypoxia of the surrounding brain tissue cells, which accelerates the establishment of collateral circulation and promote the functional recovery of brain tissue. Neurons also need time to regrow new connections in the brain and require regular stimulation to grow. As long as he follows Mr. Yu’s treatment plan and maintains his determination to carry on with his acupuncture treatments, Kris and his parents know that full recovery is not far away.