Scalp acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment method for a variety of nervous system disorders. The contemporary scalp acupuncture techniques used at Capital Acupuncture in Madison integrate Western neuroanatomy with traditional Chinese medicine needling methods.
- paralysis due to stroke
- multiple sclerosis
- traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to auto accident or surgical trauma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Pain due to central nervous system lesion, such as phantom pain, complex regional pain, and residual limb pain
- progressive myotrophy
- Bell’s palsy
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- loss of balance
- hearing loss
- PTSD Post-Traumatic Shock Disorder
- GAD General Anxiety Disorder
Thin, sterile, single-use needles are placed just below the skin of the scalp in the loose areolar tissue. While traditional acupuncture technique employs insertion of the needles into small areas, research is emerging that it is more effective to insert several closely-spaced needles such that a larger area of the scalp is covered. The areas where needles are inserted are superficial to the affected parts of the brain. For example, in a patient with difficulty moving his arm following an ischemic stroke, 2-3 needles may be inserted in the region of the scalp just superficial to the motor area of the cerebral cortex corresponding to the upper limb.
Treatment Course and Frequency
Most of the above conditions respond best to a frequency of 2-3 visits per week, with 10 visits constituting one course of treatment
Acute (sudden onset) conditions respond best when patients come in as early as possible after the condition has stabilized. (For example, patients with ischemic stroke should come in promptly after hospital discharge, but patients with hemorrhagic stroke should wait a month until there is no further risk of hemorrhage.)
For chronic (gradual onset) conditions, progress is sometimes slower and more incremental. Once the original presenting condition is stabilized and short-term therapy goals have been reached, treatment frequency is reduced to the minimum necessary in order to maintain improvement, slow disease progression, or otherwise minimize symptoms. This is somewhere between once a week to once a month, or scheduled on an as-needed basis.
Improvements are often seen within the first several sessions. If there is no improvement at all after a course of 10 treatments, it is highly unlikely that continued treatment will yield results.
Durability of Improvements
For patients with stroke or traumatic brain injury, improvements made during treatment are typically permanent.
For patients with chronic, progressive diseases (such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis), improvements are typically temporary, lasting anywhere from hours to months. (In some cases there is even a temporary worsening of symptoms, though this may then be followed by improvement.)
While the technique of acupuncture itself is at least 2000 years old, contemporary scalp acupuncture dates to the early 1970’s, when neurosurgeon Dr. Jiao Shunfa began treating patients with paralysis and aphasia (loss of speech following a stroke) using traditional Chinese therapeutic methods. By performing acupuncture according to a modern understanding of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, he began a wave of interest in this new form of integrative medicine. Interestingly, the newest research and clinical experience is suggesting that even better results are achieved when scalp acupuncture is combined with traditional body acupuncture points needled according to traditional point selection methods, or when scalp acupuncture is combined with occupational therapy or physical therapy.
"Acupuncture stimulation of [acupuncture point UB10] combined with scalp-points has a significant benefit for stroke patients in standing-balance ability and walking ability." - Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2015 Dec;40(6):474-8.
[For patients with stroke graded IV to V on the Brunnstrom scale, acupuncture and occupational therapy performed at the same time yielded better results than when performed at separate times. For patients grade III on the Brunnstrom scale, it made no difference if the therapies were performed simultaneously or sequentially]. - Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2015 Oct;35(10):983-9.
"By searching relevant [databases], a comprehensive analysis and review regarding acupuncture for cerebral ischemia reperfusion injury (CIRI) in recent 10 years... showed that acupuncture could inhibit the inflammatory reaction, reduce oxidative stress injury, restrain brain edema formation, inhibit apoptosis, promote neural and vascular regeneration, etc." - Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2015 Jul;35(7):749-52.
“[S]calp acupuncture… demonstrated, in the short term, a statistically significant improvement by reducing the level of tinnitus intensity, as well as improving the quality of life of individuals with tinnitus.” - Braz J Otorhinolaryngol. 2016 Apr 30.
“[S]calp acupuncture treatment protocol with electric stimulation has a significant clinic outcome for GAD, panic disorder and PTSD.” - Glob Adv Health Med. 2014 Jul;3(4):35-9.
[Case report: 71-year-old woman with phantom limb syndrome (PLS) of two years’ duration complete cure with six scalp acupuncture sessions] - Acupunct Med. 2014 Aug; 32(4): 356–358.