Stroke is a major health concern and one of the major conditions treated with scalp acupuncture. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or becomes clogged (effectively cutting off blood supply to local cells). According to the Stroke Center at St. John’s Hospital website, “Every 45 seconds someone in America has a stroke. In one second 32,000 brain cells die, in 59 seconds more an ischemic stroke will have killed 1.9 million brain cells. About 700,000 Americans will have a new or recurrent stroke this year and over 163,000 of them will die (making it the third leading cause of death in the USA). There are approximately 266,000 stroke survivors with permanent disabilities. There will be approximately 30,000 new permanent admissions to nursing homes this year. There are over 4 million stroke survivors today. Fewer than one in five Americans can identify even one stroke symptom. The economic impact of stroke is estimated to cost $40-$70 billion per year. A stroke can be devastating, that’s why it’s so important to minimize your risk.”1 There are many possible effects of stroke and these usually depend upon where in the brain the stroke occurs.
It seems that from what I have seen in my clinic and in courses at Five Branches University (especially while studying with Shi Xuemin, Wang Juyi and Jiao Shunfa) is evidence that acupuncture is useful in cases of stroke. However, a question has arisen for me time and time again: which acupuncture system is best for this condition?
A recent study attempts to narrow down an answer to the aforementioned question. The study comes out of Section of Acu-moxibustion of the 3rd Hospital, Department of Acu-moxibstion, College of Chinese Medicine, China and is published in Zhen Ci Yan Jiu, 2010.2 This study attempted to compare various acupuncture methods in myodynamia and neurofunction (paralysis) resulting from acute cerebral infarction (ACI, a.k.a. ischemic stroke). 90 patients were randomized into 3 groups of 30 patients each: a) ear acupuncture b) scalp (head) acupuncture and b) body acupuncture. According to the abstract, “For patients of ear-acupuncture group, the main otopoints used for penetrative needling were Zhen(MA-AT)-Nie(MA-AT)-E(MA-AT) on the affected side in combination with Jian(MA-SF 4)-Suogu(MA-SF 5) and Zhou(MA-SF 3)-Wan(MA-SF 2)-Zhi(MA-SF 1) for upper-limb paralysis, and with Tun (MA-AH 5)-Zuogushenjing(MA-AH 6), Kuan(MA-AH 4)-Xi(MA-AH 3), and Xi(MA-AH 3)-Huai(MA-AH 2)-Zhi(MA-AH 1) for lower-limb paralysis, and body acupoints as Jianyu(LI 15), Hegu(LI 4), Huantiao(GB 30), Taixi(KI 3), etc. For patients of scalp-acupuncture group, scalp-points used were Dingnie Qianxiexian(MS 6) and Dingnie Houxiexian(MS 7) on the healthy side, and combined with body acupoints (the same as those mentioned above). For patients of body-acupuncture group, only body acupoints were used. The treatment was given once daily for 14 days.” The conclusion of this study is that acupuncture is effective for ACI symptoms and that the therapeutic effect of ear and scalp (head) acupuncture was superior to body acupuncture alone.
1 Website: http://www.st-johns.org/services/stroke_center/stroke_facts.aspx
2 Li CF; Jia CS; Li XF; Shi J; Dou ZZ; Sun P. Effect of penetrative needling of otopoints combined with acupuncture on limb myodynamia and neurofunction in patients with acute cerebral infarction. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2010 Feb;35(1):56-60.