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Traditional Chinese Medicine
and Stroke Rehabilitation

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Stroke Rehabilitation

In addition being the third leading cause of death in the U.S., strokes are a leading cause of serious long-term disability.  About 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, and almost half of those who survive are permanently disabled.  That number is expected to surpass the 1 million mark by 2050.  Significant physical, cognitive and psychological disabilities create major medical and social problems. 

In the current medical climate, the type and amount of stroke rehabilitation a patient receives is many times dictated by insurance plan offerings, yet medical practitioners are unanimous in agreement that a comprehensive rehabilitative therapy program  provides the best chance of meaningful recovery.  Of the 72 million Americans that have experienced serious injury, stroke or other disabling disease more that 60 percent never receive proper rehabilitation.  Yet, the earlier rehabilitation begins the more likely the patient is to regain the ability to function and return to a productive satisfying life.

A stroke or cerebral vascular accidents (CVA) occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain.  When a patient survives a stroke, all but a small percentage of them suffer from limitations in functional activities and subsequently do not become self-sufficient. We called it post-stroke syndrome.

According to National Stroke Association, there are nearly 4 million people in the United States who have survived a stroke and are living with the after-effects. These numbers do not reflect the scope of the problem and do not count the millions of husbands, wives and children who live with and care for stroke survivors and who are, because of their own altered lifestyle, greatly affected by stroke.  In the United States, Post-stroke patients normally receive physical therapy (PT), Occupational therapy (OT) and/or Speech language pathology for their rehabilitation.

From Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) aspect, stroke caused by imbalance of Yin and Yang of inner organ and imbalance Qi and blood. The classification of Synopsis of the Golden Chamber, wrote by Zhang Zhongjing, a famous TCM doctor in the Eastern Han dynasty (300 AD), had described the symptoms and treatment method. Now many studies have been done for post-stroke patients to speed rehabilitation using TCM therapy such as Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Herbs, Tuina Anmo (Chinese Massage) and Qigong (Energy Healing). Following is a further explain these therapies and some results of studies that have been performed to date.

Acupuncture and Moxibustion Therapy

In acupuncture the TCM physician or Acupuncturist inserts one or more fine needles into the patient’s body to adjust the energy flow. Thus the treatment plan is accomplished according to the patient’s syndrome. Acupuncture points are like traffic lights on the city street. The TCM physician or Acupuncturist utilizes the needles just like traffic lights to control traffic flow.

Moxibustion treats and prevents disease by applying heat to points or certain locations of the body. The material used is mainly moxa-wool in the form of a cone or stick. For centuries, Moxibustion and Acupuncture have been combined in clinic practice, Thus they are usually termed together in Chinese.

The study done by Chen YM, et al shows that for 108 cases of hemiplegia or paralysis of on eside of the body caused by stroke, early treatment (first three weeks) with acupuncture produces better result than the treatment initiated three weeks after stroke. The improvement rate is from 90.9% down to 71.4%.

Another study done by Kjendahl A, et al, Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Nesoddtangen, Norway shows that the acupuncture group improved significantly more than the controls, both during the treatment period of six weeks, and even more during the following year, both according to MAS, ADL, NHP and the social situation.

Herbal Therapy

In ancient China TCM medical experts tasted all the herbs they used in person before they gave them to their patients. Raw herbs could be in the form of bark, leaves, seeds, roots and so forth. Today hundreds of different herb formulas are used to treat different diseases. Several commonly used herbal formulas are manufactured based on Chinese Herb Medicine Classics. These formulas have been used for hundreds of years in China.

The study done by Lin Faching, et al, Department of Neurology, Renji Hospital, Shanghai, China described: Of the 78 cased for which clinical signs were evaluated: vertigo was found in 43 cases (55.12%), nystagmus (rapid rhythmic repetitious involuntary (unwilled) horizontal, vertical or rotary eye movements) in 34 cases (43.59%), mental disorders ( including confusion, depression, disorientation, conscious blur and insomnia) in 14 cases (17.94%), motor paralysis in 28 cases (35.89 %), ataxia (Wobbliness. Lack of coordination and unsteadiness due to the brain’s failure to regulate the body’s posture and regulate the strength and direction of limb movements) in 18 cases (23.07%), sensory disorders in 12 cases (15.38%), and dyslalia (an articulatory disorder in which a patient does not pronounce the sounds clearly or they replace one sound for another) in 7 cases (8.97%). When the herb formulas were used in treatment, of the entire case sample, 97.44% reported an improvement in some symptoms and a satisfactory result was judged to be 74.36%. No obvious side effects were noted as a result of treatment when using the herbs.

Tuina Anmo (Chinese Massage) Therapy

Tuina Anmo is the Chinese term for bone setting, muscle and joint manipulation and massage. Tuina Anmo could be used in all areas of trauma, internal medicine, surgery, gynecology and pediatrics.

The article wrote by Li Yangao, et al, The Bethune International Peace Hospital, China, mentioned that 44 patients had suffered from hemiplegia or paralysis of one side of the body due to stroke. The average age of patients was 54. The disease course had lasted from one month to three years, with an average of 105 days. They were treated by Tuina  Anmo therapy from 10 to 60 times, with an average of 24 times. The result is: 18 out of 44 cases improved obviously, 18 improved, 8 cases failed, the effective rate was 81.82%.

Qigong (Energy Healing) Therapy

Qigong is a method to exercise the body’s vital energy. It combines body movement, breath, exercise and mind concentration. Qigong uses body movement to conduct the Qi (vital energy) to the place in which the mind concentrated. At the same time different breath techniques are applied depending on the exercise purpose.

According to 147 cases of hemiplegia due to cerebrovascular accident treated by Qigong, Zhang Xia, presented on the Fourth World Conference on Medical Qigong, the total effective rate is 93.2% in 12 weeks treatment period.

Integrative Therapy of Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine

It includes Acupuncture and Moxibustion Therapy, Herbal Therapy, Tuina Anmo (Chinese Massage) Therapy, Qigong Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and speech training.

Wang Shaoqin et al, Beijing Rehabilitation Hospital, China, report their study on 100 cases of post-stroke patients treated by an integrated therapy of Traditional Chinese and Western medicine. After the 3 months treatment, the total effective rate was 83%. For post-cerebral hemorrhage cases the total effective rate was 89.29%, for post-cerebral infarction was 80.56%. The overall effective rate of 67 cases under age 60 was 91.04, of over age 60 was 66.67%. There was extremely significant difference between these two age groups. The total effective rate of 50 cases whose treatment started within 6 months after stroke was 94%; the effective rate of 50 cases whose treatment started within 6 months later stroke was 72%. There was extremely significant difference between these two age groups, too.

Traditional Chinese Medicine identifies more than 2000 acupuncture points connected to pathways called meridians that conduct vital energy throughout the body.  Issues with fertility and other health concerns are directly associated with an imbalance of the body’s energy.  Through a holistic approach TCM works with the patient to restore and maintain each individual’s optimum state of health.  As the public becomes more aware of alternative and drug free treatment options TCM has much to offer.  Many patients experience treatments that provided long lasting and effective remedies to what have been in the past chronic conditions.

TCM treatments for stroke and other conditions is provided at the Evergreen Wellness Center.

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