What is a stroke?
A stroke is when a part of the brain is deprived of blood supply. When it occurs, a stroke is a medical emergency and requires medical attention as soon as possible to limit damage to the brain.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischaemic stroke happens when blood circulation is impaired by a blood clot. Ischaemic means lack of oxygen and when a tissue starves of oxygen, it starts to die.
- Haemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel bursts and creates a “bruise” in the head. Again, the blood supply is impaired and can create a lack of supply of oxygen to parts of the brain. Congestion due to the haemorrhage can also happen.
According to the HSE, stroke is the third cause of death behind heart disease and cancer and it is one of the largest cause of adult disability too.
Three main factors predispose to stroke. The first one is a poor lifestyle such as smoking, a poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight. The second one is the age as people over the age of 65 have a higher risk of stroke. And the third one is the ethnic background of a patient as Asian, African and Carribean have a higher risk of stroke in Ireland.
How can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture for stroke is most useful preventatively and post-stroke.
Preventatively, acupuncture can be beneficial by reducing the impact of risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcohol or smoking addiction, problem of overweight, diabetes and stress. In this case, acupuncture must be accompanied by lifestyle changes to maximise the effects of acupuncture treatments and to prevent reoccurrence. In that purpose, we provide lifestyle advice and Chinese dietary therapy included to our acupuncture sessions.
When used post-stroke, acupuncture is beneficial directly after a stroke during the acute phase or used for patient’s rehabilitation. Research and trials have shown that acupuncture treatments can help with various post-stroke symptoms such as problems with motor function, cognition, speech, swallowing (dysphagia), body pain, urinary incontinence, constipation, depression. Acupuncture also prevents the occurrence of another stroke. Again, for the treatment to be efficient in the long term, lifestyle changes are essential.
Here are some of the benefits of acupuncture:
- It increases blood flow in the brain promoting cerebral vascularisation.
- It alleviates cerebral oedema after an haemorrhagic stroke
- It improves muscles strength recovery
- It improves cognition
- It help motor function recovery
- It activates area of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress
- It reduces inflammation
Sources: BAcC fact sheet