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Use of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as Post-Stroke Treatment
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

A stroke occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen due to an interruption in blood flow. Within a few minutes, without adequate oxygen and nutrients, brain cells begin to die. This cell death causes the symptoms of stroke, including sudden numbness or weakness of the face or one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty with body movement or coordination, and severe headache.

There are two kinds of stroke: the most common type, causing 85% of all strokes, is called ischemic; and the less common, but more deadly type, is termed hemorrhagic.

When an ischemic stroke strikes, it is caused by a blocked blood vessel, and very often the culprit is a blood clot. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood leaks from a blood vessel, or an aneurysm bursts, causing inflammation in the brain. An aneurysm is a bulging, weak area in an artery (the vessel carrying blood to the brain). In both cases, the main point is that the brain is deprived of oxygen and may result in symptoms of stroke.

After surviving a stroke, some patients experience medical complications that will require treatment. This group of symptoms takes place in the phase known as post sequelae of stroke, since they occur after an attack. The symptoms of post sequelae of stroke are extensive. The following is a partial list of symptoms:

  • Hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body or face)
  • Problems with balance and stability
  • Vertigo
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Seizures
  • Aphasia (inability to communicate or understand speech)
  • Depression

From the perspective of your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner, a stroke is usually labeled as a wind stroke. This is because when we compare the similarities between the qualities of wind with many of the symptoms of stroke, an easy and poetic association is made.

Gusts of wind can seemingly come out of nowhere, as can a stroke. The wind manifests the qualities of movement and rapid change. Symptoms of stroke can also produce sudden movements like seizures and loss of consciousness. A person usually experiences multiple symptoms and the severity of them may quickly change. For some, a complete recovery occurs and for others lingering complications may prevail.

However, it is important to receive medical treatment even if you've fully recovered your senses from a stroke, or experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a 'mini stroke' that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted. Oftentimes, there are no noticeable medical complications afterwards, but a TIA is considered serious, as it may signal the onset of a major stoke. In fact, after having suffered just one TIA, a person's chance of another stroke in the next five years is 25 percent.

Treatment with your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner will address your specific set of post sequelae of stroke symptoms, while providing preventative care at the same time. A patient who recently suffered an ischemic stroke resulting in left-side facial paralysis, also known as Bell's palsy, and depression would most likely receive a different acupuncture protocol than someone who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke who now presents with vertigo and aphasia.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine possesses a unique ability to treat post-stroke patients in a way that helps provide relief from current symptoms and aid in the prevention of a new stroke from happening. This includes treatment of emotional issues such as depression and anxiety, in addition to the physical symptoms. If depression or overwhelming feelings of hopelessness possess you, talk to your practitioner regarding treatment for this issue.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help ease your symptoms!

About the Author:   Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.