Acupuncture for Recovery After a Stroke

Closeup of acupuncture

Acupuncture Can Help You Recover from a Stroke

Are you having trouble with speech, balance, vision, swallowing, or memory after a stroke? Acupuncture may help repair the damage to your brain, allowing you to regain or improve crucial functions.

What Happens During a Stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to your brain decreases due to a clogged, torn, or leaky artery. Brain cells begin to die within minutes after a stroke occurs. Stroke symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain was damaged by the dying cells. If a stroke damages the left frontal lobe of your brain, you may struggle with speech, while damage in the cerebellum, located at the base of the brain, could affect your balance.

Acupuncture Is An Effective Tool in Stroke Recovery

Acupuncture can help your brain recover from the devastating effects of your stroke, particularly when combined with other therapies recommended by your doctor. The treatments can help:

  • Generate New Nerve Cells and Pathways in the Brain. Acupuncture treatment may make it easier for your brain to grow new nerve cells and form new pathways in your brain. These pathways develop around the damaged area and are essential for recovery after a stroke. According to a literature review that appeared in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in November 2017, acupuncture also improves blood flow to the damaged area, regulates brain chemicals, and improves memory.
  • Relieve Pain. Dealing with pain that's not caused by a broken bone, a strained muscle, or another obvious injury can be frustrating if you've had a stroke. Damage to your brain can affect the way it perceives and interprets nerve signals, leading to pain, tingling, and numbness. A systematic review and meta-analysis of acupuncture for stroke-related shoulder-hand syndrome revealed that acupuncture reduced pain and improved movement in the shoulder. Shoulder-hand syndrome causes pain in the shoulder, arm, and hand. It also causes difficulty moving the shoulder and arm. The review appeared in the April 26, 2019 issue of Frontiers in Neurology.
  • Improve Balance. If you struggle to keep your balance, walk slowly, or have trouble coordinating your movements when you walk, acupuncture may offer a good solution for you. Electroacupuncture, a type of acupuncture that sends a gentle electrical current through acupuncture needles, can be helpful in improving motor function, according to a Chinese study. Researchers discovered that acupuncture increases the production of irisin, a hormone released by your muscles when you exercise.
  • Ease Muscle Spasticity. Moving smoothly is difficult when your muscles are painfully tight due to spasticity. Acupuncture offers a drug-free way to treat spasticity and relieve pain.
  • Make Swallowing Easier. A stroke may also affect the muscles you use to swallow and increase your risk of choking when you eat or drink. Swallowing issues happen when the nerves that control the muscles don't send the right signals due to the damage in your brain. Several research studies have shown that acupuncture can improve the swallowing reflex. New nerve cell growth or improved blood flow triggered by acupuncture treatment might be responsible for the improvement.
  • Other Benefits. Acupuncture treatments may also help improve speech, relieve insomnia, increase muscle strength, ease depression, and improve memory.

The sooner you receive acupuncture for your stroke symptoms, the better. The treatment is most effective when it's started in the first few months after a stroke, although it can also be helpful if begun a little later. If you or a family member have had a stroke, give us a call and we'll help you schedule an appointment with the acupuncturist.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Types of Stroke, 8/2/21

NCBI: International Journal of Molecular Sciences: Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy in Ischemic Stroke Rehabilitation: A Literature Review of Basic Studies, 11/2017

Frontiers in Neurology: Acupuncture for Post-stroke Shoulder-Hand Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 4/26/2019

The Journal of the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine: An Overview of Acupuncture in Stroke Recovery: A Narrative Review, 2020

Dove Press: Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: Early Post-Stroke Electroacupuncture Promotes Motor Function Recovery in Post-Ischemic Rats by Increasing the Blood and Brain Irisin, 3/1/21

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