Here are some definitions of various forms of chinese medical treatment, built on the acupuncture philosophy:
- cupping – using suction cups to stimulate acupuncture points
- moxibustion – using heat, or fire, at acupuncture points; usually applied through needles
- reflexology – stimulating points on the foot to affect various bodily functions or symptoms; usually by direct pressure with the thumb or fingers
- electro-acupuncture – sending small amounts of electrical stimulation through acupuncture needles
- auriculotherapy – stimulating points on the ear to affect various bodily functions or symptoms
There are MANY studies published in various journals around the world. The majority of these studies that claim acupuncture is effective were performed and published in China.
- So you could frown on them for having poor methodology and testing bias, as some have done. An extensive review of the methodology and quality of studies published in Chinese literature found disappointing results. Their results showed that all but one of the 34 studies supported the effectiveness of chinese medicine (which they determined was a sign of strong publication bias), but there were some major problems with the studies. For example: inadequate design, unknown dropout rates, vagueness in outcome measures, etc. The authors of this study concluded that the available data was not sufficient to judge the effectiveness of chinese medicine in stroke recovery. (6)
- OR you could argue that those living in China are the most proficient at delivering chinese medicine, and the subjects in China involved in the studies have more positive expectations of the treatment due to generations of confidence in chinese medicine, and THAT is why these studies show better results. maybe?
Well, all I can tell you is that here in the West, we are crazy about having evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The beloved RCT has displaced the Bible, you might say, because it now guides our beliefs. (I’m going to remain ambiguous about my feelings on whether such confidence in the RCT is merited….for now.)
Here are a few groups of researchers who have reviewed the available studies on acupuncture , analyzed each study’s methodology and level of trustworthiness (putting the most confidence in RCTs, of course), and then summarized their findings.
“There is no clear evidence of the effects of acupuncture on stroke rehabilitation. Acupuncture has biological effects that might improve recovery from stroke or facilitate rehabilitation. This review looked for randomised trials comparing acupuncture with control in patients who had a stroke more than one month previously. Five trials were identified but all the trials were of poor quality and no definite conclusions could be drawn about the effects of acupuncture in such patients. More large, high quality randomised trials are needed.”
“In conclusion, this systematic review found limited effectiveness of moxibustion as an adjunct to standard care in stroke rehabilitation ”
So, the research doesn’t look great for acupuncture in stroke recovery. But there are many case studies and reports of people benefitting, through decreased spasticity, increased ROM, decreased pain, etc. AND to my knowledge it is considered a very safe treatment, free from side-effects (other than a hickey-like bruise from cupping, which you might have to explain to your wife).
Bottom-line? There isn’t any evidence that it will amazingly transform your life, but it might help a little, and it wouldn’t hurt to try it. However, many insurance companies don’t pay for it, so it might be out of your pocket.
1.Mukherjee M., McPeak L.K., Redford J. B., Sun C., & Liu W. (2007). The effect of electro-acupuncture on spasticity of the wrist joint in chronic stroke survivors. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 88, 159-166.
2.Sze FK, Wong E, Or KK, Lau J, Woo J. (2002). Does acupuncture improve motor recovery after stroke? A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Stroke, 33(11):2604-19.
3.Wayne P. M., Krebs D. E., Macklin E. A., Schnyer R., Kaptchuk T. J., Parker S. W., Scarborough D.M., McGibbon C.A., Schaechter J.D., Stein J., & Stason W.B. (2005). Acupuncture for upper-extremity rehabilitation in chronic stroke: a randomized sham-controlled study. Archive of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, 86, 2248-2255
4.Wu, H.M., Tang, J.L., Lin, X.P., Lau, J.T.F., Leung, P.C., Woo, J., & Li, Y. (2006). Acupuncture for stroke rehabilitation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, 1-25.
5.Wu, P, Mills E, Moher D, Seely D. (2010). Acupuncture in poststroke rahabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Stroke;41(4):e171-9.
6.Junhua Z, Menniti-Ippolito F, Xiumei G, Firenzuoli F, Boli Z, Massari M, Hongcai S, Yuhong H, Ferrelli R, Limin H, Fauci A, Guerra R, Raschetti R. (2009). Complex traditional chinese medicine for poststroke motor dysfunction: a systemic review. Stroke;40(8):2797-804.
Posted: April 10, 2011
Categories: Alternative Treatment for Stroke