From a western medicine perspective, Parkinson’s Disease is one of a group of motor system disorders that are caused by the loss of dopamine producing brain cells. The general symptoms include tremor, slowed motion (bradykinesia) which makes voluntary movements such as walking difficult, loss of automatic movements such as swinging your arms while you walk, and a “frozen” facial feature many times with unblinking eyes.
Associated conditions such as depression, insomnia, urinary issues, constipation and/or sexual issues may also be seen. Western treatment focuses on medication, surgery, and/or physical therapy.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, syndromes in which patients suffer from spontaneous shaking, or from other muscular manifestations such as paralysis or tonic spasm, are thought to be the result of yin deficiency of the kidney and liver leading to generation of “internal wind.”
The Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment is designed to nourish the kidney and liver, with focus on nourishing yin, and sedate internal wind. While nourishing kidney and liver is often accomplished by herb therapy, calming wind syndromes is more frequently attempted through acupuncture therapy. In China, acupuncture and herbs have been used both independently and in combination.
In one study, acupuncture therapy was administered to 29 patients with Parkinson’s. The patients were treated every other day for three months. Western drugs were used as per usual practice; a control group taking Western drugs alone (24 patients) was also monitored.
It was noted that there were some responses immediately after treatment, with calming of tremor in 2/3 of the patients. Among 24 patients that completed three months of therapy, 6 were said to show marked improvement, and the other 18 moderately effective. It was reported that there was a significant improvement in symptoms for those treated with acupuncture, while for patients treated with drugs alone, there was a worsening of symptoms. Furthermore, the patients treated by acupuncture ended up using a lower total dosage of drugs after the three months of treatment, while those using the drugs only retained their original drug dosage.
My treatment protocol for Parkinson’s involves performing strong tui na (Chinese massage) on the neck and upper back around the spine. Then I insert needles that are appropriate to your individual symptoms, usually on the head, back, arms, and legs. After the needles have been in place for about half an hour, I will again perform the deep tui na work on the neck and spine and any other problem areas.
I work to facilitate the circulation of blood for healing and proper function of the brain, I remove hindrances of brain function by regulating the energy in certain areas (i.e. motor cortex, etc.), and I remove hindrances in neurological pathways from the brain to the rest of the body. During this process acupuncture and associated techniques reduce inflammation, promote proper brain function and chemistry levels, and promote range of motion in effecting muscles and joints.
Acupuncture is used around the world as a complementary treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. Research has shown that acupuncture provides symptomatic improvement, and some studies have shown that it could be effective in greatly slowing the progression of the disease if treatment is offered early enough in the disease course.