Acupuncture for Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson’s
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Acupuncture for Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson’s Disease
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What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS. It is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system that usually has a relapsing-remitting pattern. Over years, it typically leads to a progressive phase of permanent and increasing disability.
About 10–15% of patients have progressive symptoms from the outset, with no relapses and remissions (primary progressive disease). Some patients have a relatively benign form of the disease with no significant disability for many years. The underlying pathogenic mechanisms in MS appear to involve inflammation and axon degeneration.
Physical symptoms of MS commonly include vision problems, balance problems and dizziness, fatigue, bladder problems and stiffness and/or spasms. It can also affect bowel function, speech and swallowing, and cognitive function. Conventional treatment includes disease-modifying drugs, physiotherapy and dietary modification.
Acupuncture for MS
There has been very little clinical research investigating the effects of acupuncture on MS, although there are some good word of mouth reports. These are some ways in which acupuncture might help with the management of MS. Modern scalp acupuncture has developed the use of channels specifically for the treatment of MS.
- Stimulating the nervous system to release neurochemical messenger molecules
- Reducing numbers of inflammatory and CD4 T cells
- Promoting NT-3 (a protein growth factor that supports neuronal survival)
- Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress
- Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation
- Reducing inflammation
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is loss of dopamine-containing cells in the brain leading to the typical symptoms of rigidity, tremor and postural instability. At present, there are no proven neuroprotective therapies; only symptomatic treatments are available. These include drug therapy such as levodopa and dopamine agonists, MAO-B inhibitors and COMT inhibitors, surgery and physiotherapy.
Acupuncture for Parkinson’s disease
Two systematic reviews found evidence that acupuncture may be effective for treating Parkinson’s disease, but also concluded that more high quality studies are needed to confirm this. Also, adjunctive acupuncture has been found to improve the therapeutic effect of drugs alone. These studies also suggest that regular acupuncture could allow lower doses of medication to be used, and hence fewer side effects.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically help in the management of Parkinson’s disease by:
- Affecting neural mechanisms in the brain
- Increasing cerebral blood flow in the most affected hemisphere
- Enhancing synaptic dopamine availability, which may play a critical role in motor function improvement
- acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry
For MS & Parkinson’s Disease