Healing Treatments:  Parkinson’s Disease


Alzheimer’s, Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease

“The silent epidemic” is regarded by many as the disease of the 90’s. The silent epidemic is a term which refers to neurodegenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer’s disease, sequelaes of stroke & Parkinson Disease) which plagues the majority of the geriatric population but is poorly recognized by the society due to their low public visibility and their social isolation. Though neurodegenerative disorders include a vast number of illnesses, this article will attempt to focus its discussion on Alzheimer’s disease, stroke sequelaes, and Parkinson disease. This article will approach these three illnesses from the viewpoints of both Western and Oriental medicine, and will further explore treatment options specifically with acupuncture and herbal therapies.

Neurodegenerative Disorders According to Western Medicine

The fundamental principle in Western medicine is that nerve cells cannot regenerate once they die. Alzheimer’s disease, sequelaes of stroke, and Parkinson disease each involves the death and atrophy of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. Therefore, this is no cure for neurodegenerative disorder at the present time. All available treatment options focus on symptomatic treatment only.

Though the causes may differ, patients with neurodegenerative disorders are likely to show localized to generalized atrophy of brain cells leading to compromises in both mental and physical functions. Mentally, the patients will exhibit forgetfulness, poor memory, decrease in mental capacity, emotional disturbances, poor speech, etc. Physically, the patients will exhibit partial to complete incontinence, aspiration of food particles, tremor, poor balance, muscle rigidity, muscle paralysis, etc. These decreases in mental and physical functions dramatically reduce the quality of life for the patients and increase the burden of the family and care-takers.

Neurodegenerative Disorders According to Oriental Medicine

Neurodegenerative disorders are complex with an onset that is followed by progressive deterioration. Their clinical manifestations are determined by the location and the seriousness of neurodegenerative disorders. Its pathogenesis is a mixture of deficiency and excess conditions, represented by the deficiency of kidney essence or the blocking of the brain channel by blood stasis (an excess condition) - or both.

The cause of neurodegenerative disorders lies not so much in the brain (though it is the brain that shows the symptoms) as in the kidney, which according to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine controls the bone and generates the marrow. From the point of view of disease differentiation through viscera and their interrelations, the root of the disease is due to the deficiency of the kidney and the bone marrow. While the blood stasis and the phlegm accumulation are considered as the symptoms, not the cause. Therefore, the keys to treating neurodegenerative disorders are to tonify the kidney, eliminate the phlegm, remove blood stasis and induce resuscitation.

Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders with Acupuncture

According to the theories of Oriental Medicine, the spirit (Shen) resides within the heart and the brain. The spirit is affected by the overall mental and physical health of a person. If the spirit is damaged, both the mental and the physical functions of a person would be greatly compromised. Deterioration in mental functions may result in delirium and dementia with the decline in physical functions resembling complications of stroke. Therefore, the treatment for neurodegenerative disorders should focus on awakening up the spirit (Shen), opening up the sensory orifices and stimulating the brain.

In Oriental Medicine, Parkinson’s disease is related to ‘Liver Wind.’ According to the theory of Chinese medicine, the Liver or is said to control the sinews and ensure the smooth circulation of energy. Correct movement depends on our muscles, ligaments, and tendons receiving adequate nourishment. This nourishment comes from the Liver Blood. When Liver Blood is deficient then problems with movement can occur. These concepts of ‘Liver Blood’ & ‘Liver Wind’ are not present in Western medicine; they belong to the theory of Chinese medicine that has developed over thousands of years.

Liver Wind develops when the channels which nourish our muscles, tendons and ligaments are relatively ‘empty’ i.e. there is not enough Blood to fill the channels. This creates a space in the channels where wind can move and create the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Acupuncture treatment (sometimes combined with Chinese Herbs) aims to restore the movement of energy and blood in the acupuncture channels that nourish the muscles and tendons. Points are selected according to which part of the body have been affected, along with additional points to eliminate ‘Liver Wind’. Thus, treatment is tailored for each individual according to which acupuncture channels are involved, and the underlying disease mechanisms that have lead to the illness. Although in each case there is a deficient of Liver Blood leading to movement problems, there are many reasons why this has occurred.

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