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Stroke and Nervous System Disorders: Acupuncture, What Works and What Does Not

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has a long history of use for treating stroke. This form of intervention may be of value to Westerners, because the conventional approaches to stroke rehabilitation have not been definitively shown to be of value, according to some researchers. However, acupunctureÍs mechanism of action in stroke rehabilitation remains unclear. Several studies, however, are intriguing.

  • A 1987 study by Zhang compared acupuncture to medication in rehabilitation of stroke patients with limb paralysis. The study indicated that acupuncture was an effective treatment, especially when begun as soon as possible after a stroke.

 

  • In a well-designed 1993 Scandinavian study by Dr. Kurt Johansson, seventy-eight stroke patients with severe hemiparesis, or slight weakness or paralysis affecting only one side of the body, were treated with either acupuncture or occupational therapy. Patients in the acupuncture group showed greater improvement in balance, mobility, and in the managing of activities of daily life. Moreover, the cost of rehabilitation was almost 50 percent lower for those receiving acupuncture than for those receiving conventional treatment.

 

  • For a 1996 Norwegian study by Dr. Susanne Sallstrom at the Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, a group of stroke patients received acupuncture and was compared to a control group that did not receive acupuncture. Only the acupuncture group rated a significantly improved quality of life. Control patients improved only physical movement, and declined in quality of sleep.

According to most researchers, adding acupuncture to multidisciplinary stroke rehabilitation therapy in the subacute (acute but not chronic) stage benefits all outcome areas. Poststroke patients have untapped rehabilitation potential, which is important to utilize. Researchers suggest that acupuncture may enhance reorganization within the brain, which appears to underlie the functional reorganization that occurs after stroke.

 

 

 

 

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From THE BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: WHAT WORKS? WHAT DOES NOT? by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier.

 

Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.

Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

 


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