Stroke is defined as a neurological deficit of sudden onset which results from cerebrovascular disease and persists for longer than 24 hours. Consequences of stroke can include disability and early death.
Around 80% of first strokes are ischaemic (i.e. due to the thromboembolic or thrombotic occlusion of an intracranial artery).Primary haemorrhage (haemorrhagic stroke) and subarachnoid haemorrhage account for a further 10% and 5% of strokes, respectively. Overall, about 10% of patients die within a month of a first ischaemic stroke, and by 6 months, up to around 20% are dead and 30% or more are dependent on others in day-to-day activities. Of patients who have a stroke, those aged 80 years or over are more likely to die or be disabled as a result than are younger patients.
Can Acupuncture Really Benefit Stroke Recovery? Our answer is a definite “yes”.
Acupuncture has been practiced in China for more than 3000 years, and in recent years has become increasingly integrated into mainstream biomedicine. Recent surveys suggest acupuncture is commonly used after stroke in China today and in the treatment of other neurologic disorders. Systematic reviews, including a 1997 National Institutes of Health consensus statement, suggest that acupuncture may be a useful adjunct to stroke rehabilitation.
Acupuncture can significantly benefit stroke patients if it is done right; otherwise it is of little value. Acupuncture is not just about inserting needles at certain points, it is about regulating the qi flow. Hence manipulation of the needles is necessary to affect the qi. The technique and amount of manipulation vary with the type of stroke, stage of the disease and the patient’s condition.
Concentration and repetition are necessary to provoke and reinforce plastic changes in the brain. Hence, to achieve speedy functional recovery after a stroke, intensive treatments are paramount. The frequency and duration of acupuncture treatments must be adequate especially in the first three months.