The Benefits of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Epilepsy

An increasing number of epilepsy sufferers are glad to know acupuncture in Bellingham can help control their seizure attacks. This ancient treatment, which has been part of China’s medical heritage for more than 2,500 years, was introduced into Canada and the United States in the early 1970’s. Since then, it has become one of complementary medicine’s most widely used modalities (used as an adjuvant therapy for Western conventional medicine or other treatments.)

Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are often used synonymously. Traditional Chinese medicine of which acupuncture is a part of is usually abbreviated as TCM, and besides acupuncture, also includes exercises, herbal remedies, diet, and other treatments.

Some practitioners of TCM believe that depending on the extent and type of the patient’s epilepsy, acupuncture can be an effective treatment for this condition. Because only a few people are aware of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating epilepsy, only a few have tried it. Those who’ve tried say that the treatment helped reduce the intensity and frequency of their seizures. Acupuncture not only addresses the symptoms of an illness, it also targets the cause of the illness, as well. And since it is a natural form of treatment, its effects are not always immediate but may take some time and a number of treatments for it to work. So, if you want a quick fix for your condition, you will only be disappointed with this treatment. But for those who stick with the treatment, their chance of success is very high. In the treatment of epilepsy, most acupuncturists will also include dietary recommendations and herbal therapies.

Balancing Energy

Acupuncture helps treat and prevent illness. Its style of treatment and approach to health is very different to Western medicine. An acupuncturist believes that we all have within us a qi or vital energy coursing through our bodies along energy vessels known as meridians. The life force, Qi is involved in all bodily functions – from emotions to metabolism. The Chinese believe that a person is healthy because his/her qi flows freely throughout the body. Illness occurs when this circulation or flow is impeded. So the intention of acupuncture treatment is to bring back the proper flow of qi and restore balance and harmony within the body.

To achieve this, the acupuncturist sticks stainless steel, very thin, sterilized needles at selected points in the skin (called acupoints) to utilize the twelve primary meridians where qi circulates through the body. Acupoints that affect the qi of the brain are certainly used to treat epilepsy. This is designed to boost blood and qi flow to the head. Acupuncturists have the ability to manipulate energy flow, to either boost or weaken a person’s qi at certain points in the body in order to remove blockages. Many acupuncturists prescribe herbs and provide dietary advices to help guarantee that the correction in energy flow lasts for a long time.

Acupuncture treats the person as a whole and restores the balance between the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of the person.

The treatment triggers the self-healing processes of the body and anything that is of profound concern to a person’s spiritual or inner is deemed to be an important factor in diagnosing and treating a condition.

Acupuncture is a procedure that only a qualified practitioner can perform – it is not a self-help treatment. People react to the treatment in different ways. Some respond to the treatment very well, others may find the treatment works only after several treatment sessions, some do not respond to it at all, while a few actually experience an opposite effect – the treatment can actually stimulate seizures. It is possible that the treatment may make you feel worse before you get better or the acupuncturists aren’t very skilled. Maybe, acupuncture just doesn’t work for you.

Chinese Medicine Diagnosis

An acupuncturist follows a diagnostic approach that is quite different from that of a Western-trained doctor. The latter takes our pulse to measure blood loss and heartbeat while the former reads our pulse to obtain information about our vital organs (the liver, spleen, stomach, etc.) Acupuncturists believe that the pulse reveals the state of the qi energy systems, something that Western conventional medicine doesn’t even consider. They divide the pulse into 12 main parts, six to a wrist, that represent the 12 primary qi energy systems of the body. A certain type of energy is associated with a specific organ and each energy flows through the meridian. An acupuncturist decides where to stick the needles through by knowing how energy flows throughout a person’s body.

Research

The Chinese have conducted several studies that demonstrate acupuncture as a reliable and safe way to lower or reduce seizure activity. One study of note suggested that the treatment with the best outcomes was a treatment that combined massage and herbs with acupuncture.

A German study was done in which 98 people with epilepsy participated. The subjects ranged in age from two to 52. During the first weeks of the study, all drugs were discontinued. After receiving acupuncture treatments lasting from one to 18 months, 65 people experienced an absence of seizures during a one-year period without drugs and other significant improvements. The patients then received acupuncture maintenance treatments once over two to three months. In five cases, relapses occurred. According to British Medical Acupuncture Society, Ruth Livingstone, acupuncture can help address some of the problems that aggravate epilepsy – poor sleep, stress, etc.

Most of the acupuncture research in the U.S. has been performed on dogs. One particular study involving five dogs showed that after being treated with acupuncture all five experienced reduced numbers of seizures; three experienced fewer seizures with lower levels of anticonvulsants.

A New York resident was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy at age 22. Many years later, he began getting acupuncture treatments for several years. The sessions were once a week, at first, then was reduced to once a month. He was able to lower his medications during that time. That patient says that acupuncture didn’t entirely control his seizures, although now he had fewer seizures and have gained a greater awareness of his body. He added that after each treatment he always felt immensely relaxed and experienced renewed sense of well-being.

One woman diagnosed with Partial Temporal Lobe Epilepsy had been suffering several grand mal seizures while asleep. Her doctor prescribed Dilantin. However, she was afraid of the side effects of the drug so she decided to try Chinese herbal remedies and acupuncture instead. She says that she feels there is some control. Since she started treatment, she’s experienced just one seizure. She added that “at this point, the treatment plan I have chosen is much preferable to the toxic and mind-numbing effect of the prescription medication.”

Gary Fleischman, author of the book Acupuncture: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know says that almost all can benefit from acupuncture. “There is no age limit to acupuncture.”

Risks

Although acupuncture is a very safe treatment, recent research has shown that it carries possible, albeit low risks. Over 30 years of medical literature was pored over by a team of researchers. They were looking for cases wherein acupuncture treatment led to serious injury or harm on the patient. They were able to find four fatalities and over 110 serious injuries. The piercing of the surrounding tissue and the lung was the most frequent problem. The researchers state that the lack of skill of the practitioner was responsible for all the complications they have found. Several US states now require acupuncturists to pass an exam before they can practice, significantly reducing the risk of injuries.

In 1998 the National Institutes of Health released a consensus statement stating that acupuncture truly works for a number of conditions, including lower back pain, addiction, stroke rehabilitation, and migraine headaches. This official list will soon include epilepsy.

In order to get the safest and best acupuncture treatment, here are a few tips to consider:

1. Choose a qualified acupuncturist: To know whether the practitioner is qualified or not, ask for his/her credentials. The acupuncturist should have been trained at an accredited school and has undergone 2,000 – 3,000 hours of training. It should be stated that in 30 states, doctors can practice acupuncture without any training; States requiring physicians to study before practicing only demand them to go through 200 or 300 hours of work;

2. Make sure that your acupuncturist only uses disposable needles: The risk of infection is very high if the practitioner uses dirty needles.

3. Experience: This is very important for the successful treatment of epilepsy and all types of disease. Make sure your practitioner has had plenty of experience treating epilepsy.

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