Acupuncture for stroke
Not had a chance to blog recently due to pressure of work but I felt motivated to talk about the limitations of treatment for stroke suffererers since I spend a good proportion of my time treating stroke patients long after the initial episode and find it frustrating that I can't get to them sooner.
Acupuncture is now proven to be effective in the treatment of back pain. NICE guidelines support the use of acupuncture for lower back pain - according to this guideline, acupuncture is significantly better than no intervention and also significantly better than standard/best medical care. So why then is it too difficult to believe that it would not work on any other part of the body? In China, they don't only suffer with back pain. Acupuncture is a complete system of medicine so it needed to be robust enough to treat any disorder, be it of mind or body.
The modern advances of Western medicine have been truly phenomenal in the last century, with keyhole surgery, heart bypasses and organ transplants to name a few of the wonders of what man and machine can achieve. However, in this bid to continually modernise and improve procedures, we have left behind some methods of medicine that have been tried and tested for centuries and by not accepting the failings as well as the triumphs of Western medicine we are failing patients.
For example, Western medicine is drastically falling behind the East in treating stroke. According to the 2010 China Connection Global Report, patients received better care in the Tianjin Hospital Program than patients in the U.S.
85 percent are able to walk without assistance (Only 51 percent of U.S. patients completing rehabilitation in the U.S. walk without assistance).
95 percent regain almost complete knee flexion compared with 50 percent in the U.S.
98 percent return to live in their homes instead of long term care facilities while only 68 percent of U.S. stroke patients are able to live in their own homes.
The Tianjin Hospital patients also saw decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol with 46 percent of patients reducing their blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications.
A stroke for somebody in the Western world often means paralysis or speech difficulty for the rest of that persons life. In China, stroke really isn't an issue. The patient would have intensive acupuncture treatment immediately after the stroke and they'd be able to return home fairly quickly with often barely any remnants of stroke left remaining.
So why then do we not adopt the Chinese approach and have acupuncture provided in specialist stroke units? It's very cheap to do and would save millions of pounds on anti-seizure drugs. I'm sure you don't need me to answer that one. I have several theories, all of which don't have the patients interests at heart, however I think the key thing here is that for acupuncture to be recognised to treat stroke in the UK, sufficient evidence must be gleaned under controlled trials, and who's willing to pay for these trials?
The fact is that acupuncture is successfully used to treat a wide range of ailments. It would take me a long time to list all the illnesses I've treated but I know that I have significantly improved every single one of them and patients will agree. I may not have been able to make them all 100% better but their symptoms have improved. However, because I don't have thousands of pounds to conduct a trial, I can't prove it. I urge everybody suffering with any kind of problem to seek out a qualified acupuncturist. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Shi Xuemin, "Diagnostic and therapeutic system of apoplexy with acupuncture therapy as its focus", Number 1 Teaching Hospital, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin, China
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Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac