Can PARKINSON’S Be Helped with Acupuncture?




Can PARKINSON’S Be Helped with Acupuncture?  Several studies have been undertaken to measure the improvement of PARKINSON’S DISEASE symptoms using acupuncture.  They all report some benefit, but perhaps measuring results of Chinese medical philosophy by the standards of Western medical philosophy is a bit like comparing apples and oranges!

Chinese medicine, from which acupuncture is derived, sees human disease as an issue of imbalance of internal flows of energy within the body.  When there is an imbalance, there will be multi-organ disharmonies.  Chinese medicine attempts to restore balance to organs and organ relationships and to regain normal function and not simply treat the symptoms.  Acupuncture is only one way of helping to restoring balance.

Western medicine, and in movement disorders especially, looks at symptoms in an objective manner, developing scales by which to measure the way symptoms manifest. The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) consists of several rating scales covering multiple aspects of PARKINSON’S symptoms, and is used to help neurologists determine the severity or progression of the disease symptoms.  While it attempts to be objective, it requires training and experience and is based on the physicians’ observations and the patients’ responses.

In all the studies, subjects who received acupuncture reported positive responses and felt some improvement in some of their symptoms.  Sleep was improved and pain decreased, and swallowing issues were sometimes improved.  The feelings of fatigue that plague so many people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE were reduced significantly, leading to better energy and improved enjoyment of life. While Western neurologists may consider these reports to be subjective and not objective, to the people with PARKINSON’S, the relief is very real.

A new study from the University of Arizona has published the results in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.  This time, the research team was able to measure objective improvements in balance and gait.  These researchers used electroacupuncture, which places the acupuncture needles in the same meridians but uses a small electrical current passed between two needles.  Subjects in this trial were divided into two groups, one receiving actual treatment and the other receiving sham treatment.  Subjects in each group received treatment that lasted for 30 minutes once a week for three weeks.  Multiple measurements of balance and gait were measured under various conditions.  The control group did not show any improvement but the acupuncture group showed an improvement of 31% in balance, gait speed increased by 10% and length of stride improved 5%

Hopefully, more studies similar to this will be done soon to verify the results.  Acupuncture may be a good alternative treatment for people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE, to be used in addition to medications and therapies prescribed by their neurologists.  Patients should always discuss any alternative treatments they are interested in trying with their doctors and keep them informed of supplements or herbal preparations they are using in addition to their prescribed medications.


Lei, Hohg, Nima Toosizadeh, Michael Schwenk, Scott Sherman, Stephen Karp, Saman Parvanish, Esther Esternberg, and Bijan Najali. “Objective Assessment of Electro-acupuncture Benefit for Improving Balance and Gait in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease (P3.074). “Neurology 82, no. 10 Supplement (2014): P3-074.



Article and review by Marcia McCall


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