Stroke Recovery with Acupuncture

X Ray ImageA stroke is a life-threatening condition involving a problem with blood flow to the brain and the death of sections of brain tissue. A stroke can either be ischemic when a blood clot cuts off circulation to a section of brain tissue, or hemorrhagic when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. A condition similar to a stroke is a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, where blood flow to a section of the brain is temporarily reduced or stopped and can result in stroke-like symptoms. Signs of a stroke in progress include slurred speech, difficulty moving on one side of the body, drooping face, and lack of responsiveness.

Because different areas of the brain can be damaged during a stroke, no two stroke patients are entirely alike. So, treatment for stroke and its after-effects depends on the nature of the symptoms and the time since the stroke occurred. And regardless of whether or not we’re talking about acupuncture, when getting treatment for the effects of stroke, time is critical. Just as stroke itself is life threatening and requires emergency attention, full recovery is more likely the sooner treatment can begin after the stroke has passed.

Stroke Management with Acupuncture
Treatment of stroke with acupuncture depends on the time since the stroke occurred. If the visit is within a couple days from the stroke, acupuncture treatment will be focused on harmonizing blood and lymph circulation to clear out edema and cell debris in the brain matter. For those who start treatment within the first couple weeks to a month after the stroke, treatment changes to focus on promoting neuronal growth, to help the brain create new neural connections and relearn activities lost from the stroke. Acupuncture points in the scalp are more likely to be chosen at this time. And for those who delay their treatment and start after the first month, treatment shifts again – this time focusing on creating new neural connections and helping re-calibrate muscle activity with what neurons have grown. This almost invariably means using electro-acupuncture, which is the running of electricity through inserted acupuncture needles, similar to a TENS unit.

Research on stroke recovery is mixed – perhaps not surprising, given the variation in stroke patients themselves. Studies show that for movement-related problems, acupuncture’s effectiveness depends on timing, just like all other therapies. For other problems that often come with stroke, such as depression or difficulty speaking, acupuncture is definitely effective.

Stroke is one of those conditions where presentation can be so highly variable that a consultation with your acupuncturist is needed to determine proper expectations for treatment. But regardless of the time frame since the incident, acupuncture has its place in helping to improve quality of life, relieve depression, and increase range of motion & control.

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8 comments on “Stroke Recovery with Acupuncture
  1. Morgane says:

    Had a stroke almost three years ago and we can not get my left hand arm to respond to anything, do you think acupuncture could help or has it been too long?

    • Paul Mosier says:

      Hi Morgane,

      I always tell patients that it is better to try than not to try. Nerve regrowth does happen, and I have seen patients regain function of limbs after 2-3 years of no conscious motor control.

      In your case, it may depend on whether or not nerve & circulatory damage has been so extensive that there is muscle atrophy. In my experience if you are at the point of atrophy then recovery is much more difficult.

      Hope this helps. Please feel free to email or set up a consultation if you’d like to discuss more!

  2. AO says:

    Dear Paul,

    A female patient who suffered stroke 2 months ago and has urine continence. She is now relying on daily catheterization. Would acupuncture help her case?

    Thanks.

  3. Tina Maria Morrison says:

    I am 32 and i have had a stroke 6 months ago and lost the power of my left arm would accupunture work ❔

    • Paul Mosier says:

      Hi Tina,

      I am sorry to hear about your stroke. I wish you a speedy recovery.

      Acupuncture has been used to help many people recovery movement after a stroke. Treatment with acupuncture after a stroke typically needs to be done quickly and often to have good results, but it works very well together with physical therapy and other rehabilitation services.

      I encourage you to find an acupuncturist in your area who can help you. If you are local to the southern NH area, please consider seeing us.

      Warm regards,
      Paul Mosier, L.Ac.

  4. Isabelle says:

    Hello Paul
    My husband suffered an ischemic stroke in May (5 months ago) aged 47, reason unknown. Although he has recovered well physically, he does complain of a constant tingly and pinching-like feeling all down his right side, from his arm to his leg and foot. Other than this he can move freely and to look at him he looks fit and well without any obvious signs that he has had a stroke, although he is much weaker.
    He has also been left with severe expressive aphasia, both verbal and written, his emotions are very “present” and he is having regular Speech Therapy and is making slow but marked progress. We are not, unfortunately, based near you, but do you think that acupuncture could help diminish the physical tingly feeling he has and his neurone development to recover speech and writing?
    Thanks so much for your opinion.
    Best Wishes
    Isabelle

    • Paul Mosier says:

      Hi Isabelle,

      Tingly or pinching feelings often occur when a nerve is partially pinched or constricted, or is undergoing some form of active healing & regrowth. It’s possible that there is some cellular debris from the stroke that is impeding nerve conduction, or that nerves are trying to remap themselves to control expanded areas of your husband’s body.

      I would expect that acupuncture could help by reducing pain and increasing mobility by encouraging his brain to better remodel after the stroke. A good acupuncturist could also use herbal medicine or dietary consulting to help repair & strengthen blood vessel walls to help avoid the possibility of further stroke.

      Best of luck with your husband’s recovery,
      – Paul Mosier, L.Ac.

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