The residual impairment after a stroke can be a devastating reduction in function and capability, and seriously affects many people's abilities to live and work independently. Cardiovascular disease, which includes disorders that range from the largest arteries, such as the aorta, to the smaller arteries supplying the brain and internal organs, to the peripheral circulation providing circulation to the extremities, is the number one cause of mortality and sickness in the United States.
Acupuncture has been used to treat disorders such as stroke and the symptoms of cardiovascular disease for many centuries. Many Western physicians and patients have also discovered the effectiveness of acupuncture and herbal medicines for pain and other problems. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture can be part of the rehabilitation program after a stroke and can be helpful for treating the limb weakness, speech problems, and pain and sensory disorders which follow vascular events such as bleeding or blood clots in the arteries which supply the brain.
Although acupuncture treatment for stroke is not as well known in this country as it is abroad we always advise a patient to give it a try without any further delay. The Western perspective that "time is brain" is certainly correct, so it is generally true that the sooner treatment is applied, the more rapid is the response.
It is even best to treat the stroke at the earliest signs of problems, and the emergency room or hospital really should be the place where treatment begins. Unfortunately, few physicians know how to apply this treatment. However, you should still try to have your doctors find someone on the staff who can treat you even while you are having your workup in the emergency room or urgent care center. Doctors who have been able to do this have reported that early intervention can result in less initial damage.
Even if it has been some time since you had a stroke, acupuncture may be worth trying. However, the longer the condition has been present, the harder it is to completely eliminate it with acupuncture and moxabustion. Herbal therapy may also have to be used. Herbal medicine or acupuncture may be indicated to try to prevent further strokes.
The first few hours after a stroke is critical to improving the results and preventing long term disability. Once established, disability may take considerable time and effort for improvement. Patients should expect that a minimum of 3 months of treatment may be necessary to see improvement, and treatment may have to continue for much longer. There is no single formula of acupuncture points for strokes, as each treatment must be individualized to the exact pattern of imbalance that the stroke has caused.
In addition to weakness, pain may also be a prominent problem after a stroke. As many as 40% of patients who suffer stroke may be left with some sort of chronic pain disorder or abnormal feeling in the limbs, the head, or the body. Most physicians are not aware of how often pain accompanies stroke, and are unprepared to recognize or treat this important complication.
Dr. L.B. Grotte, M.D., was the first physician in Ohio to be board certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbology. He has studied Oriental medicine since 1972 and has practiced Oriental medicine in Cleveland, Ohio for more than 27 years. Call us at 440-461-7488 to make an appointment or visit our website for more information.