Parkinson's, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Parkinson's disease (PKD) is a progressive degenerative neurological disorder characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, slowing of movement and, in extreme cases, nearly complete loss of movement (akinesia). The initial cause of the disease is still unknown, from a Western medical perspective.
However the effects are quite clear: there is a gradual loss of the neuronal cells which secrete dopamine in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra.
Many people suffering from the effects of PKD seek out the help of an acupuncturist and this is because Chinese medicine can be very useful in dramatically slowing and, in many cases reversing many of the symptoms of the disease. Depending on where a person is in the disease process, we can often slow the need for more or higher dose of drugs. In many cases, I have had had clients able to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals and thus spare themselves the side effects of those drugs.
Research/Articles/And a nice letter from a patient
University of Arizona doctors find acupuncture effective for the treatment of balance and gait disorders in Parkinson’s disease patients.
A study from physicians at the University of Arizona revealed that:
Balance, gait and stride length were all significantly improved by the application of acupuncture. Use of a sham acupuncture control group eliminated the possibility of the placebo effect. As a result, the researchers concluded, “(acupuncture) is an effective therapy in improving certain aspects of balance and gait disorders in PD (Parkinson’s disease).”
A testimonial from the daughter of one of my patients:
Speaking of Care: Bonnie and Parkinson's (http://speakingofcare.blogspot.com/p/bonnie-and-parkinsons.html)
Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2001. I was studying abroad in England at the time, and while it certainly was disconcerting, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. I had noticed nondescript symptoms for over a year- she was easily f
atigued, her handwriting was getting hard to read, and it was taking longer to do routine tasks. Aside from getting assessments and care plans from a variety of neurologists and specialist, Mom made a point of getting regular bodywork at Ohashiatsu Chicago (now Zen Chicago). Besides providing stimulation for her muscles and nervous system, the therapists at Ohashiatsu were the first to suggest acupuncture, and recommended Mark Reese at the Northside Holistic Center.
Fast-forward nine years. Mom has gotten weekly treatments from Mark and takes a steady course of Chinese herbs and supplements in addition to her three Western drugs. She is taking relatively low doses of Amantadine, Azilect, and Requip, which act as both neuroprotectors and dopamine agonists. Her Western doctors can’t believe how well she is doing on such a small amount of medication- Parkinson’s drugs are difficult because the body gets used to the dosages and they need to be increased, but there is only so high you can go. Many patients max out and need to seek out alternate treatments, such as Deep Brain Stimulation.
It’s not been without low periods- there were times when she couldn’t drive for months, had no energy whatsoever, or couldn’t dress herself. We’ve looked seriously into moving her into a nearby assisted living facility. But for now, she rents out my old bedroom and the whole third floor to boarders through Interfaith Housing Center so I feel comfortable knowing somebody is there. I swing by often enough to help with small things, like opening jars and changing light bulbs, and am there for all the big things, like doctor appointments.
I truly believe getting acupuncture therapy from the beginning has bought Mom dozens of years of quality of life. Mark has degrees in Microbiology and Biochemistry, and an impeccable understanding of the body’s energy and functioning. I see immediate results after she has a treatment, and she doesn’t have the side effects associated with her drugs: nausea, lethargy, and confusion. I call him Mark the Magician and can’t speak highly enough of him.
- A study [which can be read here] examines the role of one important herb, Gou Teng, which is frequently included in our formulae for PKD. While it is almost never the case that we use only one ingredient in a formula, most having between 10-30 ingredients, this is an important bit of research which underscores our overall effectiveness by examining one mechanism for our success. The study found that:
... patients who took Gouteng together with levodopa experienced fewer side effects from the drug while showing a marked improvement in their communication skills.
- A recent study highlights the use and mechanism of acupuncture in managing Parkinson's. In particular, the brain protective aspect via an antioxidant effect is deliniated. A summary of it can be read here. The conclusion reads:
Researches determined that stimulation of St36 and Sp6 with electroacupuncture protects the brain by creating antioxidative and antiapoptosis effects. The electroacupuncture protected a part of the mid-brain called the substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is an important part of the brain in controlling movement. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the deterioration of dopaminergic neurons in a part of the mid-brain called the substantia nigra pars compacta.
It can be concluded that acupuncture possesses definite therapeutic effectiveness for Parkinson's disease, which is mainly represented by improvement in the clinical symptoms and signs, delaying of the disease's progression, decrease in the dosage of anti-parkinsonian drug, and expectant treatment of the complications and symptoms induced by the drug side-effects.
- •The Institute for Traditional Medicine (ITM) published an essay which aggregates many protocols for the treatment of Parkinson's disease along with a concise description of how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) frames Parkinson's disease. The essay is entitled,Parkinson's Disease: Possible Treatment with Chinese Medicine, and can be read in full here.
- •From a study reprinted on the Michael J. Fox Foundation's website: Acupuncture May Be Effective in Treating Parkinson's. This study examines the use of acupuncture in murine models in an attempt to understand the mechanism by which acupuncture may be useful in treating Parkinson's disease. The lead researcher, Sabina Lim, summed up her experience by saying:
The mechanism behind this effect is still unknown, but . . . because inflammation in the brain often accompanies and worsens other symptoms of Parkinson's disease, acupuncture might maintain dopamine levels by preventing inflammation.
•From ScienceDirect.com comes an abstract from the Journal of Traditional Medicine (JTM) which shows an extremely dramatic change in motor function in Parkinson's disease patients using acupuncture. The summary states:
Acupuncture can enhance therapeutic effects of western medicine and lessen the dose of the medicine needed." The research showed a 92% improvement in the study group.
Acupuncture appears to normalise levels of dopamine in the brain. However, from other studies we know that this is not the only brain chemical which levels seem to be restored by acupuncture. Strong indications exist for endorphin and melatonin (J. S. Han et al. Trends Neurosci. 26, 17, 2003; D. W. Spence et al. J. Neuropsychiatry Clin. Neurosci. 16, 19, 2004). Furthermore, it was found that acupuncture normalises levels of among others norepinephrine, dopamine, ACTH and corticosterone (S. H. Han et al. Physiol. Behav. 66, 217, 1999).
- These findings are of particular interest not only for patients with Parkinson’s disease, but also indicate that acupuncture could have a positive influence on other patient groups as well. There is, for instance, a growing body of literature pointing to a dysregulation of the dopaminergic and stress systems in schizophrenia (L. J. Phillips et al. Aust. N. Z. J. Psychiatry 40, 725, 2006; M. Laruelle et al. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1003,138, 2003). Further scientific research based on thorough western methods is therefore necessary, and promising.
- From Neuroscience Letters comes a more technical article entitled: Effect of acupuncture on 6-hydroxydopamine-induced nigrostratal dopaminergic neuronal cell death in rats. The gist is that the stimulation of one particular acu-point prevented damage of the cells in the brain which are destroyed during the Parkinson's disease process:
In this study, we investigated the effect of acupuncture at the Zusanli acupoint (ST36) on the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neuronal cell death in the rats with Parkinson's disease. Two weeks after unilateral injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) into the striatum, an apomorphine-induced rotational behavior test showed significant rotational asymmetry in the rats with Parkinson's disease. Immunostaining for tyrosine hydroxylase demonstrated a dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra and dopaminergic fiber loss in the striatum. Acupuncture at the ST36 for 14 days significantly inhibited rotational asymmetry in the rats with Parkinson's disease, and also protected against 6-OHDA-induced nigrostriatal dopaminergic neuronal loss. These effects of acupuncture were not observed for the non-acupoint (hip) acupuncture. The present study shows that acupuncture at the ST36 acupoint can be used as a useful strategy for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
- From the journal Proteomics comes an article analyzing a single acupoint and it's effects upon preventing the degeneration of dopamine in the substantia nigra,
- These results suggest that acupoint GB34-specific [acupuncture stimulation] changes protein expression profiles in the SN [substantia nigra] in favor of DA [dopaminergic neurodegeneration] neuronal survival in MPTP-treated mice, and that [acupuncture] treatment may be an effective therapy for PD patients.