A stroke survivors experience with acupuncture
Recently, someone wrote in to Big Tree to share her story about using acupuncture to recover from two strokes. She stated that she had both strokes within a couple of days. After the second stroke, she lost her ability to speak clearly, read, write, and had right sided hemiparesis (weakness affecting one side of the body).
Her Acupuncturist came over to do scalp acupuncture the same day as the second stroke and then again two days after that. At that point, her speech began improving and with the continued help of her Acupuncturist and family, she was also able to read, write, and continue running her business. She continues having regular scalp acupuncture treatments, does acupressure on herself, and is extremely happy with her results. It was important to her that we not only share her story but also spread the word.
An Acupuncturist’s experience
My first experience treating a stroke victim was very early in my career as an Acupuncturist. In fact, I began treating her during my clinical rounds as I was finishing my education in Oriental medicine.
My patient was in her 80’s and had the stroke 10 years prior to her treatments with me. This was also her first time having acupuncture. I was reluctant to specify what type of results I thought we could achieve since it had been so long since her stroke, and I had no experiential knowledge at that time. I only knew what I had been taught in class: that scalp acupuncture can help with stroke recovery.
Scalp acupuncture is the practice of inserting acupuncture needles into specific areas of the head. This is a modern technique that has been well researched and documented.
I recommended that she come in for treatments 2-3 times per week which she was unable to do consistently. She did manage to come in 1-2 times a week for several months, and then I also continued treating her after I graduated.
Results of scalp acupuncture
My patient had many of the common stroke-related conditions such as, hemiparesis, speech and swallowing problems, depression, and fear related to falling. She could walk with the use of a cane but had fallen several times which created a lot of fear. Both her and her husband reported that she started showing signs of improvement after only a few treatments. Her pain that was associated with the hemiparesis decreased and became more manageable with every treatment.
Within about two months, she was speaking more clearly, not feeling depressed, and walking on her own more frequently because she was no longer afraid. She was disappointed if she missed her acupuncture sessions because she always noticed a dramatic difference when she did not have them. In a situation like this, regularly scheduled treatments will help improve the person’s quality of life.
Does acupuncture hurt?
People always ask me if the needles are painful. You might think that inserting needles into the scalp would be scary and painful, but it’s really not. Actually, scalp acupuncture is relatively pain free and quite relaxing.
Acupuncture needles are very thin, and more like little “pins” than the needles used for injections by western medical practitioners. (See photo)
Acupuncture for stroke works best when given as soon as possible
It is crucial that we educate as many people as possible about the benefits of using acupuncture to help stroke survivors recover. The most important knowledge being that the sooner you have acupuncture after a stroke, the faster your recovery will be and the better the results.
Of course, seek emergency medical care immediately. I’m not telling you to call an Acupuncturist instead of calling 9-1-1 during a stroke. However, I am saying that you should have acupuncture treatments as soon as it is possible. This can drastically effect the outcome of the treatments.
A person who has acupuncture one day or one week after a stroke will most likely have greater benefits than someone who has acupuncture one year after having a stroke. That being said, my first experience was with a woman who had a stroke ten years before seeing me for treatments, and she made some very significant progress as well.
Acupuncture is very safe and can be an extremely beneficial adjunct therapy to stroke rehabilitation when administered correctly by a highly trained Acupuncturist. Here is a resource for more info: Scalp Acupuncture
**Strokes are a medical emergency and you must call 9-1-1 for help immediately. If you are unsure of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, click here for more information: http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/signs_symptoms.htm.