Using acupuncture for stroke recovery

Acupuncture for Stroke Recovery

Acupuncture for stroke recovery

A stroke survivors experience with acupuncture 

Recently, someone wrote in to Big Tree to share her story about using acupuncture for stroke recovery. She had two 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 day of the second stroke and then again two days after that. At that point, her speech began improving. With the continued help of her Acupuncturist and family she was also able to read, write, and continue running her business. She has regular scalp acupuncture treatments, does acupressure on herself, and is extremely happy with her results. She felt it was important for us to share her story and spread the word about acupuncture for stroke recovery.

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 a 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 we could achieve since it had been so long since her stroke and I had no experience with stroke victims at that time. I only knew that scalp acupuncture could 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 for stroke

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 and always noticed a dramatic difference when she did not have them. In a situation like this, regular treatments will help improve the person’s quality of life.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture for stroke recovery

Acupuncture needles are very small and thin

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 for stroke recovery. 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 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 information: 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:

About The Author

Jess Cudar, L.Ac.

Jessica J. Cudar, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Acupuncture certified by the NCCAOM. She first discovered her interest in Oriental medicine while working as a Chinese Linguist in the United States Air Force. As she studied Chinese-Mandarin, she was completely immersed into the language and culture. It was then that she discovered the amazing benefits of utilizing eastern medicine. Jessica also has a background in massage therapy and over 12 years of experience in alternative medicine. She is driven by her concern for the health and well-being of society, which is what motivates her to continue working to expand awareness and help people achieve their wellness goals.


  • Rita Cupitt

    Reply Reply March 10, 2016

    Thank you, Jess, for a great article and for spreading the word about acupuncture for strokes based on my own experience.

    • Jess Cudar, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply March 10, 2016

      You’re very welcome, Rita! 🙂

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It was a great opportunity for Big Tree to get the word out.

      Take good care of yourself!

    • kishor

      Reply Reply January 18, 2018



  • Kc

    Reply Reply March 10, 2016

    Thanks for the great article, Jess! I took care of a dear friend for many years who was a stroke survivor.
    We worked with several alternative medicine practices to nurse her back to health. Scalp acupuncture was not one that we were aware of. So good to know.

    • Jess Cudar, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply March 10, 2016

      Hi Kc! I’m so glad you enjoyed this article.

      I have seen many stroke survivors benefit from scalp acupuncture during recovery. This is important information for future reference should the need ever arise.

      I’m glad to hear that you were a supportive and integral part of your friend’s healing process. I’m sure she was grateful for your assistance. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lisa

    Reply Reply March 10, 2016

    Hi, thank you for sharing this story! I have an 81yo friend, that had a stroke 3 years ago, that left her with total paralysis of her left arm and partial paralysis left leg. She’s able to transfer herald from her chair to her bed. She can also walk with assistance. She was unaware of scalp Acupunture. Being that it was 3 years ago do you think it could help gain mobility in arm or with walking? I read how you helped the lady 10 years post stroke. Just curious if there’s any hope for my friend?

    Thank you!

    • Jess Cudar, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply March 11, 2016

      Hello Lisa.

      Personally, I believe that there is always hope. Even in our darkest hours, whether it is due to a physical, mental, or emotional ailment, hope and faith are what bring us through.

      If your friend is open to trying acupuncture, I would certainly encourage her to try. Find a Licensed Acupuncturist in your area with experience in scalp acupuncture. She will need to have treatments consistently and should allow at least 6-8 sessions to determine if it is helping.

      Everyone is unique and responds differently to acupuncture. Some people notice improvement immediately after the first treatment, while others may take much longer. The severity of condition and the individual’s constitution also play a role in this process.

      I hope this helps. Good luck to you and your friend.

      Take care!

  • Bor Wu

    Reply Reply March 11, 2016

    Thank you Jess for such wonderful article, it will help many stroke survivors.appreciate for your time , to reply to me about my requests, thanks!!! 🙂 do you have clinic in FL, would you please email me information ,so I can let my stroke clients know, I am a Massage Therapist, somewhat helpful. But I would like they go visit you at FL, it can recover. Truly Bor Wu

    • Jess Cudar, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply March 11, 2016

      Hi Bor!

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you found the post helpful and happy I could assist you with your other requests earlier this week. I will email you the specifics about my practice.

      Have a fantastic weekend! 🙂

  • carrie stevens

    Reply Reply August 14, 2016

    hello my friend had a massive left sided stoke 6 days ago, she cannot move her right arm and leg. still in ICU, apparantly still bleeding in the brain, they gave mild aspirin cant give warfarin yet. took feeding tube out due to gastric upset. should i needle sp1 for now to help stop the bleeding and then wait to perform scalp acupuncture?

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT

      Reply Reply August 18, 2016

      Hi Carrie,
      Very sorry to hear of your friend’s stroke. I cannot recommend any interventions – please work with a local practitioner in your area.

  • Morgan

    Reply Reply August 17, 2016

    I’ve heard great things about this treatment! It can really make a world of difference in the way you feel and how your body heals. Thanks so much for all the info!

    • Jess Cudar, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply August 18, 2016

      Absolutely Morgan!

      This is certainly one of those situations where time is of the essence…in more ways than one. Not only does the treatment help the body recover, but it can also improve the person’s quality of life. Thank you for taking the time to comment! 🙂

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