Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability and the third leading cause of death. Every year strokes affect 15 million people worldwide with 5 million of those resulting in death. Of the remaining 10 million survivors at least 5 million of those will be disabled to varying degrees requiring immediate and long-term care to regain function, speech, memory, and other related impairments. Smoking, obesity, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and high blood pressure are important risk factors for stroke, with high blood pressure being the most strongly correlated.
High blood pressure, diabetes, and other risk factors for stroke are commonly treated with Chinese Medicine and other complementary therapies. For stroke treatment, acupuncture serves both a preventative and a rehabilitative role. For prevention, Chinese Medicine works to offset the systemic imbalances that contribute to stroke. These are issues such as long-term emotional and physical strain, overwork, poor diet and dietary habits such as eating too fast, at odd hours, etc. and an overall lack of relaxation. In Chinese Medicine terms these habits weaken the spleen, kidney, and liver systems over a period of time and contribute to the chances of having a stroke and/or developing other health issues.
On the rehabilitative side, acupuncture works along with other western therapies such as physical therapy and other rehabilitation specialists to help regain function. Generally treatment involves resolving the underlying causes, using points overall for the specific type of stroke in Chinese Medicine terms, and then points for local issues. These “local” issues may include paralysis or loss of control in various limbs, facial paralysis, speech problems, and more. Proper treatment, then, involves points and techniques for both systemic and local issues.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory divides stroke into two main types: flaccid (stemming from an overall deficiency) and tense (from an overall excess). Examples of symptom differences for these TCM diagnoses for stroke are as follows:
- Flaccid type – sudden unconsciousness with flaccid signs such as closed eyes, open mouth, loss of bowel and/or urinary functions, cold limbs.
- Tense type – sudden unconsciousness with tense signs such as clenching of the hands and/or mouth, redness of the head and/or face, no loss of bowel or urinary functions.