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Acupuncture for Stroke Rehabilitation

Quickening Recovery: Acupuncture for Stroke Rehabilitation

Elias Lu, DTCM,

Acupuncture Physician

Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine in St. Pete, Florida

May people turn to acupuncture to treat naturally all types of pain – from backaches to migraines. But did you know that acupuncture can be effective for many neurological conditions and even assist in stroke rehabilitation?​
Man in wheelchair

Stroke Burden

Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and death in the United States. Regardless of the type of stroke (ischemic vs. hemorrhagic), patients are often left with many debilitating symptoms, including:


  • Balance problems

  • Spasticity

  • Functional weakness

  • Mood dysregulation

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)

  • Pain

  • Cognitive impairment


Post-Stroke Rehabilitation

A comprehensive rehabilitation program is essential for improving post-stroke outcomes. Acupuncture, along with physiotherapy, occupational therapy, audiology recreational therapy, and speech therapy, has been found helpful with recovering many of the physical, mental and emotional functions.


How Acupuncture Works

While the effectiveness of acupuncture is undisputed, we still don’t fully understand how acupuncture works. Most likely, brain neurotransmitters, neurotrophic factors, and the autonomic nervous system are behind its efficacy. Based on recent studies, acupuncture works by one (or several) of the mechanisms:


  • Increasing blood flow to injured areas

  • Regulating multiple pathways in the thalamus and hippocampus

  • Alleviating oxidative stress in the brain

  • Improving brain energy metabolism (via glucose utilization and mitochondrial function)

  • Preventing neuronal apoptosis and stimulating neuronal proliferation

  • Reducing the post-ischemic inflammatory reaction

  • Normalizing sleep

  • Facilitating neural plasticity


Is Acupuncture Safe?

Acupuncture has proven itself as a safe therapy with few side effects. There is little to lose by trying this gentle and relaxing therapy.


Towards Better Outcomes

Acupuncture shows promising therapeutic and brain-protective effects in stroke rehabilitation. In the right hands, acupuncture offers many benefits, such as increasing muscle strength, reducing spasticity, and improving brain functioning. An important distinction between acupuncture and other rehabilitative techniques is that acupuncture is a complete system of healing. We, acupuncture doctors, don’t just treat individual symptoms but, instead, attempt to connect with people on a deeper level through touch and energy fields.


Where to Seek Help

The sooner one starts rehabilitation after a stroke, the more likely they are to regain lost abilities and return to normal life. If you or your loved one would like to try acupuncture, please contact Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine in downtown St. Pete.


Chavez, L. M., Huang, S. S., MacDonald, I., Lin, J. G., Lee, Y. C., & Chen, Y. H. (2017). Mechanisms of Acupuncture Therapy in Ischemic Stroke Rehabilitation: A Literature Review of Basic Studies. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(11), 2270.


Li, L., Zhu, W., Lin, G., Chen, C., Tang, D., Lin, S., Weng, X., Xie, L., Lu, L., & Li, W. (2022). Effects of Acupuncture in Ischemic Stroke Rehabilitation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in neurology, 13, 897078.


Li, N., Wang, H., Liu, H., Zhu, L., Lyu, Z., Qiu, J., Zhao, T., Ren, H., Huang, L., Chen, S., Hu, X., & Zhou, L. (2023). The effects and mechanisms of acupuncture for post-stroke cognitive impairment: progress and prospects. Frontiers in neuroscience, 17, 1211044.


Lu, Y., Chen, Y., Huang, D., & Li, J. (2021). Efficacy of acupuncture for dysphagia after stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of palliative medicine, 10(3), 3410–3422.


Su, X. T., Wang, L., Ma, S. M., Cao, Y., Yang, N. N., Lin, L. L., Fisher, M., Yang, J. W., & Liu, C. Z. (2020). Mechanisms of Acupuncture in the Regulation of Oxidative Stress in Treating Ischemic Stroke. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2020, 7875396.


Yao, L., Ye, Q., Liu, Y., Yao, S., Yuan, S., Xu, Q., Deng, B., Tang, X., Shi, J., Luo, J., Wu, J., Wu, Z., Liu, J., Tang, C., Wang, L., & Xu, N. (2023). Electroacupuncture improves swallowing function in a post-stroke dysphagia mouse model by activating the motor cortex inputs to the nucleus tractus solitarii through the parabrachial nuclei. Nature communications, 14(1), 810.

doctor's picture

Dr. Elias Lu, DTCM is an acupuncture physician with Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine. In practice for over 25 years, he integrates traditional Chinese medicine with modern functional therapies to help people with chronic pain, trauma, neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety, depression, and many other life's challenges.

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