Parkinson’s disease causes tremors, slowness of movement and makes walking unsteady leading to falls. Some muscles also become excessively rigid causing joint pain and the symptoms become progressively worse with time. There is no western medical cure and millions of dollars are spent annually on research by pharmaceutical companies.
The main pharmaceuticals used in the early stage of the disease are Levodopa and Carbidopa. Long term use of Levodopa leads to writhing, twitching and shaking. Other drugs used are classified as dopamine antagonists such as Ropinirole. The effectiveness of the medication lessening symptoms wears off with time and the medicines themselves have serious side effects. One side effect that affects ten percent of patients taking dopamine antagonists causes compulsive gambling problems and obsessive sexual tendencies.
Other side effects of the medications include
- Sleeping disorders
- Low blood pressure
- Abnormal writhing movements
- Chest pain
The Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were already recorded in ancient Egyptian and Greek times as well as by ancient Chinese medical physicians.
Modern research has confirmed that acupuncture is an effective treatment to help Parkinson’s disease. In the May 2012 edition of Parkinsonism Related Disorders, it was reported that subjects were treated with acupuncture and assessed using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, the Parkinson’s Disease Quality of Life Questionnaire, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Berg Balance Scale, and the time and number of steps required to walk 30 metres.
The patients who participated had two acupuncture treatments per week for ten weeks.
At the conclusion of their study, the researchers from Kyung Hee University found that acupuncture had made significant improvement.
The control group who had no acupuncture and only took anti Parkinsonian medication had no change.
In 2009, in the Journal of Movement Disorders, more research has confirmed the efficacy of acupuncture for Parkinson’s disease. It was found that acupuncture actually stimulated the brain regions that are known to be adversely affected by Parkinson’s disease. This was verified by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The acupuncture point Gall Bladder 34 yang ling quan, traditionally used to relax ligaments and tendons, stimulated the putamen and the motor cortex-two key motor function areas of the brain.
One of the early problems associated with Parkinson’s disease is a difficulty in walking. In Chinese medicine diagnostic theory, there are two meridians called the yin walker vessel and yang walker vessel which start at the feet and travel up to end up inside the brain and cross over connecting with each other. These meridians are useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to the many acupuncture points useful to treat Parkinson’s disease, there is also Chinese herbal medicine. When an herbalist prescribes for a patient, it is always in a formulation that is a mix of different herbs. The different herbs are mixed together to synergistically improve the individual actions of an herb or to balance the over powering effect of a specific medicinal herb.
A qualified practitioner of Chinese herbal Medicine has about 400 individual herbs in his repertory and uses about 250 formulations. One herb has so far been researched in the west for its potential use in Parkinson’s disease.
That one such herb is gou teng, unicaria, and has been shown to induce autophagy for alpha-synuclein at a similar rate to a drug called rapamycin. But the good news for Parkinson’s sufferers is that the herb does not have dangerous side effects like the drug.
The New Zealand government spends thousands of dollars each year subsidising anti- Parkinsonian medications that have limited results, stop working after a few years and cause serious adverse side effects. There is no research being done at all in New Zealand on acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine treatment on Parkinson’s disease.