Kathleen Leavy, R.N., A.P. has been practicing scalp acupuncture for stroke rehabilitation since 1992; stimulating areas of the scalp – which lie over hypofuctioning, atrophied, or injured brain tissue – will increase blood flow, oxygenation and lead to improved function of brain tissues.
Scalp Acupuncture has been practiced since the 1960’s in China. It was first developed by a Neurologist who was familiar with modern maps of the brain, which correlate with receptive and functional cortex zones that are well documented. This has been shown to be correct with functional MRI studies. Improvement at first is temporary but with persistent treatments this improvement can become permanent. Long lasting improvement is thought to represent increased circulation that may imply the development of collateral circulation and perhaps neruogenisis.
In China scalp acupuncture is used in the treatment of many central nervous system diseases and protocols have been developed for diseases such as stroke, head trauma, cerebral palsy, encephalitis-meningitis sequale, Parkinson’s, dementias, memory loss, cortical blindness, nerve deafness, and epilepsy.
Predicting prognosis regarding favorable response to scalp acupuncture includes cases in which the insult is more superficial and cortical, more recent, and more related to ischemia or infarct. Poor prognosis in response to scalp acupuncture is predicted in cases with a deeper more cerebellar insult, those with intracranial bleeding, post injury > 6 months, and chronic degenerative conditions.
Risks of Scalp Acupuncture and Body Acupuncture:
- Infection at the needling site
- Bleeding at the needling site
- Nerve pain and injury to nerve.
- Broken needle
- Injury to internal organ
- Fainting or needle reaction
Kathleen often use electrostimuation of acupuncture points in the scalp known to improve muscular strength in order to reconnect communication between the injured cortex and the affected limbs. By combining scalp and body acupuncture there is an enhanced effect. Often in response to body acupuncture stimulation over the major motor nerves of the arm and leg we will see spontaneous muscular movement. This style of acupuncture using the scalp and body reconnects the communication between the injured cortex and the affected limbs. If the presentation is that of contracture the Motor and Motor Suppressor areas would both be stimulated.
In China it is widely recognized that scalp needle retention for up to 8 hours improves results as the patient can do exercise, and receive Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy treatments with the advantage of improved cortical circulation during the therapy.