Expertise in Stroke Treatment
Prof. Ming Qing Zhu, L.Ac. has treated more stroke patients than any other acupuncturists in the world. There were times in China when he treated over 200 patients, mostly stroke, in one day. Why did stroke patients flock to him? Because of his “magic needles”, they said. He used his special Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture.
In 1987 at the First Conference of the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies, Prof. Zhu treated two stroke patients on the stage. In less than 10 minutes, these patients were able to stand up from the wheelchairs and walked without support. Prof. Zhu has repeatedly demonstrated his techniques worldwide ever since and has amazed every patient and audience.
Professor Zhu and his associate, Moyee Siu, L.Ac. possess the expertise knowledge and clinical experience to treat any kind of stroke, ischemic or hemorrhagic. Whether it is a new stroke that just happened, or one that occurred years ago, they can help patients recover or improve their functions. Contrary to what most people think, acupuncture can be used in the acute stage of a stroke. In fact, it should be used as early as Day 1, even for a hemorrhagic stroke. Of course you need someone as experienced as Prof. Zhu and Dr. Moyee to know how to do it right.
What does stroke mean?
Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) or what is known in layman’s term as “stroke”, or “wind stroke” in Chinese, describes more vividly the acute onset of the disease and its severe consequences. The patient is hit hard suddenly and becomes paralyzed.
The medical term “cerebrovascular accident” (CVA) tells you what has happened – there is an accident inside the brain that relates to its blood vessels. It may be a clot blocking a vessel (ischemic stroke) or bleeding from a rupture (hemorrhagic stroke).
Why does a stroke happen?
A plague, which is a lump of cellular waste products, cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium and fibrin, can build up on the inner lining of blood vessels, making the vessels harder and narrower. When the plague becomes too big, it completely blocks the flow of blood. So, a person with high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides or very thick blood has an increased risk of ischemic stroke. Sometimes, a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot that comes from the heart. This occurs more likely with people who have heart valve problems or atrial fibrillations. Clots do not form overnight. It takes years to build up. Therefore ischemic stroke patients are mostly among older population. There are no symptoms at all until suddenly one day a blood vessel is completely blocked.
Another possibility is the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. It may be due to high blood pressure, or a traumatic injury like the head hitting an object or floor. Some people are borne with abnormalities in their cerebral vessels such as aneurysms or arterio-venous malformation (AVM). The walls of these vessels are weakened at certain spots and can rupture without any warning. This type of stroke can happen in young patients, regardless of age.
An experienced doctor should be able to differentiate with fairly high accuracy the types of stroke based on the patient’s symptoms. The diagnosis is best confirmed with imaging studies such as a CT scan or MRI. Note that CT scan does not show new clots in the first 48 hours of a stroke, but MRI can.
Sometimes a stroke causes facial paralysis and deviation that looks very much like Bell’s Palsy. Again, an experienced doctor should be able to tell in a matter of minutes. Correct diagnosis is crucial because it leads to very different prognosis. Don’t let the wrong hands delay your treatment.
What happens after a stroke?
Our brain is the body’s control center. The trillions of brain cells need blood supply for oxygen and nutrients. When a stroke occurs, blood supply is interrupted at the lesions. After 4 minutes or more without oxygen, brain cells become damaged and may die. Consequently the body parts controlled by those cells cannot function. For instance, a patient may feel numb (loss of sensory function) and cannot move his arm (loss of motor function).
For a hemorrhagic stroke, things are often worse. The blood that leaks out of the vessel occupies space in the brain, compressing on surrounding tissues. Damages are therefore more extensive. Many hemorrhagic stroke patients suffer from an excruciating headache or lose consciousness (in coma). If bleeding is massive, the brain may even be shifted to one side or pushed downward through the foramen of the skull. The latter case is fatal.
As the cells die, edema is formed, thus causing more damages. So, symptoms continue to progress for a few days before they stabilize. The peak is around Day 4 or 5.
The loss of function from a stroke may be mild or severe, and temporary or permanent. This depends on which part of the brain is affected, how much of the brain is damaged and how fast the blood supply can be returned to the affected cells.
Stroke affects 700,000 people annually in the US. It is the THIRD leading cause of death and the NUMBER 1 cause of long-term adult disability.
Conventional Treatments for Stroke
Stroke is an emergency that requires immediate medical care. Patients are usually hospitalized for monitoring of vital signs and life support. Once symptoms are stabilized, patients will be discharged. As the brain starts to heal, some functions will return slowly but only to a limited extent. In order to recover more, rehabilitation therapy is needed.
Hemorrhagic stroke patients may require a surgery to drain the blood that has accumulated, to relieve the compression in the brain. Ischemic stroke patients are often given Warfarin (also known by brand name Coumadin). Warfarin is an anti-coagulant, a blood thinner. It prevents formation of new clots but it does not dissolve clots that have already formed. In other words, it may not help patients to regain lost functions. Overdosage of warfarin or coumadin can cause internal bleeding. This side-effect is not surprising for it was originally developed as a potent rodent poison.
In 1996, FDA approved the use of a new drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), to treat ischemic stroke because it can dissolve clots. However the use of tPA has been very limited. First, it must be administered within 3 hours from the first signs of a stroke. Second, only well trained medical personnel at approved stroke centers provide this service. Third, tPA is contraindicated for certain medical conditions. For instance, patient with a recent history of bleeding, seizure episodes or very high blood pressure cannot receive tPA. Finally, tPA increases the risk of bleeding. There are reports of death or secondary hemorrhagic stroke caused by tPA.
Does Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture (ZSA) benefit a stroke patient?
ZSA is very beneficial to stroke patients. The earlier the intervention, the better are the results. Our therapy helps in several ways:
- It prevents or reduces edema in the brain, thereby stops further damage to brain tissues.
- It promotes perfusion in the brain, restoring blood and oxygen to brain cells and save them from dying.
- It helps to break down blood clots.
- Our approach accelerates functional recovery.
Although the actual mechanism of scalp acupuncture is not fully understood, the above statements are based on our own experience and substantiated by countless clinical cases. The treatment of stroke and its rehabilitation is a specialty that demands certain skills and knowledge. ZSA clinic has more than 40 years of experience in stroke management. We treat strokes in any phase, acute or chronic.
SPINAL CORD INJURY (SCI)
A 21-year-old male was injured on June 11, 2003. He had a T-11 compression fracture and a T-12 burst fracture. His MRI showed a complete transection of his spinal cord and severe dislocation. At that time, he had neither motor nor sensory function below the umbilicus and no urine or bowel control. He was diagnosed with an ASIA A injury, and all the doctors he met predicted he would never be able to move his lower extremities again. Both his physical and occupational therapy were geared to the adaptation of his disability, focusing only on the strengthening of his upper body and upper limbs. In seven months he started assisted-ambulation with a walker, and had regained his bowel and bladder functions. Although, he still cannot stand or walk without support, his improvement to-date has defied all previous expectations based on Western medicine. His classification has progressed from ASIA A to ASIA C in less than a year. How could this happen without any Western medical treatments and no stem cell transplants? His treatment consisted only of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and a vigorous regimen of exercises, prescribed by Dr. Ming Qing Zhu, L.Ac.
A 23-year-old female had an auto accident on April 2, 2000, sustaining a cervical fracture, dislocation and incomplete spinal cord injury at C5-C7. Left in a Vancouver hospital with no hope, she sought out Dr. Ming Qing Zhu, who started treating her on April 25, 2000.
Unlike ordinary 30-60 minute acupuncture sessions, Dr. Zhu worked at her bedside from 9am to pm. Days typically began with both scalp and body acupuncture. The body needles were removed after one hour, but the scalp needles were left in for more than twenty four hours. The bulk of the days consisted of almost non-stop exercises, from passive to active, from the chest to the feet, from internal organs to external limbs, from lying position to sitting position. Dr. Zhu guided these activities with firm instructions and fatherly encouragement, lifting the patient from her severe depression.
May 7 marked her first attempt at standing. Two months later the patient was transferred to a better-equipped hospital. Every weekend, Dr. Zhu flew to the hospital to continue his treatments, focusing on alleviating her physical pain and soreness, increasing her stamina, correcting her posture and gait, and attempting new movements. Every weekend saw a small breakthrough in her recovery. In November 2000, she started to walk using a walker.
Critical Factors in SCI Treatment
All the SCI cases treated by Zhu’s scalp acupuncture have shown marked improvements. Effectiveness is correlated with three factors:
1. Time: The best therapeutic window is within the first three months after an injury. Immediately after injury, the spinal cord goes through a shock period in which a cascade of events occurs, including bleeding or ischemia, edema, and spontaneous lysis. The damage will gradually spread upwards and downwards. Early intervention of ZSA (as early as day one) helps to control bleeding and edema, shorten the spinal shock period and consequently minimize the extent of the damage, leading to a better prognosis. If ZSA is initiated after the first 3 months, functional recovery accrues more slowly and to a lesser degree, requiring many times the effort to produce a fraction of the same results.
2. Daoyin: A vigorous and persistent exercise regimen is recommended, at least six to eight hours a day. It includes passive and active movements, breathing and relaxation. Even when active motion is not visible, the intention and mental visualization of the patient is crucial and important. There is nothing mystical about using the mind in this way. Basically, the brain sends nerve signals down the spinal cord, making attempts to find new neuronal pathways through the injury site. Once a visible movement is detected, the patient is asked to repeat the same pattern over and over, so that the nervous system creates a memory of the motion. Our neural circuits turn off when they are not used, and therefore, must be re-learned. By repetition, muscle strength increases and muscle atrophy reverses. Inadequate Daoyin, even if the method is right, is like medicine whose dosage is too low and does not attain its required therapeutic level. Dr. Zhu encourages his patients to use a standing frame early on, believing that standing upright has many benefits. It keeps the spine straight, prevents scoliosis, prevents pressure sores from sitting too long, and improves pulmonary and cardiac functions. Furthermore, weight bearing on the bones helps to prevent bone density loss or osteoporosis.
3. Scalp Acupuncture: Many patients are discouraged by the slow progress they make following standard rehabilitation programs. The addition of Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture to such programs has been demonstrated to accelerate patients’ progress. Dr. Zhu expresses this by way of analogy: “Patients with SCI are like people trapped inside a dark room. Those who stay motionless will remain in the room forever. Those who exercise are probing for an exit, but the door is closed. Scalp acupuncture acts like a key. It opens the door and allows light to shine through. However, the person still needs to move towards the door, and lift his legs over the threshold in order to step out into the sun. Otherwise, he is still confined in the room no matter how wide the door is opened.” Dr. Zhu emphasizes the concurrent application of scalp acupuncture and Daoyin. Scalp acupuncture has some obvious advantages over traditional body acupuncture. First, it is much more effective in treating neurological conditions. Second, scalp needles do not interfere with bodily movements, whereas body needles must be withdrawn to avoid bending or breaking. It must also be noted that ZSA is not a purely mechanical procedure that can be quickly learned; results depend heavily on the practitioner’s skill level, acquired only through training and much practice.
Other benefits of ZSA in SCI Patients
- Relieving pain: Pain is common in SCI patients, often from tissue damage associated with injuries, dislocation, broken bones, local inflammation and swelling. Another type of pain is neuropathic, typically described as hypersensitivity or a deep burning or sensations of pressure. Both scalp and body acupunctures are very effective in relieving pain, without the adverse side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. This is an area where acupuncture is unquestionably superior to Western medicine.
- Reducing infections: A majority of SCI patients lose bladder control and require the use of catheters. This is a frequent cause of urinary tract infections and can, in severe cases, result to kidney failure. Patients with injuries above C4 may also suffer from lung infections. ZSA and herbal medicine can control these infections effectively.
- Promoting bladder and bowel control: Dr. Zhu finds that the restoration of bladder and bowel control is possible even for patients classified with complete injuries. The earlier the training starts, the better are the chances. Regaining such control restores a patient’s human dignity and sense of independence profoundly, as well as providing a major relief to their caretakers.
- Controlling spasticity and spasms: Dr. Zhu views spasticity and spasms as part of a normal recovery process, and utilizes them to increase muscle tone. If spasms are excessive, he uses acupuncture and herbal medicine to control them, again avoiding adverse drug side effects.
- Managing autonomic dysreflexia: In situations where hospitals and paramedics are not immediately available, acupuncture may be the first choice of treatment for autonomic dysreflexia. It is well-known that acupuncture has a bi-directional regulatory action in our system. For example, the same needle at a single acupuncture point can either increase or decrease blood pressure. It automatically adjusts to the body’s need to restore homeostasis.
- Maintaining better overall health: Our SCI patients unanimously agree that they enjoy better health. They have more energy, stronger immunity, less muscle atrophy, more motivated and positive outlook.
The importance of hope
It is a constant battle to fight against the common notion that the spinal cord cannot regenerate. In some hospitals, SCI patients are repeatedly bombarded with this message until it echoes in their minds: “You have to live in your wheelchair for the rest of your life. There is no hope of recovery. There is nothing you can do for the paralyzed parts of your body.” Dr. Zhu has a very strong conviction that if we act fast enough, some functional recovery is possible. Sadly, Dr. Zhu is often accused of giving false hopes. As Dr. Bernie Siegel, M.D. said, “There is no such thing as false hope”. Nobody can live without hope. A spinal cord injury is a devastating event that changes a patient’s life, and the lives of the people around him. When you see light, however small, at the end of a dark tunnel, it gives you courage and motivation to go on.
The importance of perseverance
While we cautiously tell our patients to be optimistic, we do not foster dreams of miracles. Rather, we emphasize hard work, and every SCI patient under Dr. Zhu’s care knows that this means eight hours of serious work, everyday, seven days a week. What defeats people is a lack of perseverance and long-term support. After an initial period of depression, most patients come to terms with their situation and live as their doctors have suggested. A small number of patients are determined to fight the odds, but even these few may not be able to put up with the demands of the therapy, the mundane routines, the emotional cycles and the financial drain. As time goes by, they slow down on their rehabilitation efforts, or allow themselves to be distracted by other life activities. Their patience wears thin and they hope for a more rapid solution. Everybody longs for the opportunity to get a stem cell transplant. But we must realize that even after a successful transplant, a great deal of rehabilitation is necessary to stimulate the growth of the new cells and to establish new circuits. The transplant procedure itself is relatively short but the road to recovery is still a long and arduous one. There is no short or easy way.
The importance of cooperation
Increasing clinical studies suggest that the nervous system may, under the right conditions, be capable of recovering from injury. But even the largest, state-of-the-art SCI research facilities admit that the biological mechanisms are still unclear. Many receive considerable grant money for SCI animal research and their findings are highly regarded, despite their uncertain application to humans. While the merit of Western approaches is never questioned, scalp acupuncture is routinely met with skepticism. Even when scalp acupuncture results are evident, they continue to be denied by the Western medical establishment. For example, a patient with an incomplete C-6 injury came for treatments six months after injury. He could only move his left lower extremity. During the first acupuncture treatment, everybody in the room witnessed his right leg started to move and his hand grip increased by 2.5 kg. On his second visit, he told us that he defecated on his own the night after the first treatment. Since then he did not need digital stimulation. Surprisingly though, when he returned for his third visit, excitement had faded from his face. His neurologist told him that those functions would’ve recovered spontaneously anyway and had nothing to do with acupuncture. Soon afterwards the patient stopped coming for treatments. We were told many months later that his condition remained at the same level. Was it a coincidence that the functions came back during and right after our treatment? Why did it not continue to improve on its own after the treatments stopped? How can we explain the many direct and obvious results we observe in our clinic? While it is true that incomplete SCI may recover spontaneously, is it not also apparent that ZSA therapy helps to speed up the recovery?
- Treating Spinal Cord Injuries with Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture Author: Moyee Siu Published: The European Journal of Integrated Eastern and Western Medicine, Issue 1 Volume 3 February 2005
- Acupuncture’s Effects in Treating the Sequelae of Acute and Chronic Spinal Cord Injuries: A Review of Allopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine Literature Authors: Peter T. Dorsher and Peter M. Mcintosh Published: eCAM February 25, 2009
Successes in treating Bell’s Palsy
Approximately 60% of Bell’s Palsy patients recover spontaneously. Often Western doctors prescribe prednisone or do nothing. The treatment with prednisone is controversial, and some believe that it helps only if given within the first 3 days of onset. Spontaneous recovery may take 6 months or more, and is sometimes incomplete, leaving some permanent disfigurement or sequelae.
Waiting for spontaneous recovery is like waiting for rain to revive your dwindling plant. Who knows when it is going to rain? Be proactive and take charge of your recovery. ZSA can help you.
Scalp acupuncture applied in our clinic has helped numerous patients recover fully and quickly. Prompt intervention is essential. If a patient starts his treatment within 1 or 2 days of onset, he is likely to recover completely after 10 to 15 treatments, given daily. In other words, your face restores to normal in just 2 weeks. This is faster than any medicine or other modalities.
What if your condition is already more than one week or one month? Our treatment is still effective. It just takes more time.
We are proud to say that we have 99% success rate in achieving 100% complete recovery. We have treated facial palsies due to various causes: viral infections, nerve damage from surgical procedures, compression from tumor, head trauma, as well as idiopathic Bell’s Palsy.
How do you prevent Bell’s Palsy?
Most idiopathic Bell’s Palsy are caused by exposure to cold wind, and can be prevented.
- Avoid exposure of your face and neck to cold wind.
- Do not sit close to air-conditioners. We have seen several cases in which the patients woke up from a nap in an airplane to find that their faces became numb and paralyzed. They had cold air jets blowing on their face from the air-conditioning.
- Do not sleep under open windows.
- Wrap a scarf around your neck when you stroll on the beach on cold or windy days.
- Most importantly, do not overwork or become too stressed, because Bell’s Palsy only hits you when your immunity is low.
We have a high success rate
Migraine is one of the specialties of ZSA, with a high success rate (over 95%). Doctors are exhilarated every time a patient tells them “my pain is gone”.
How many treatments are needed?
With our treatment, relief is felt immediately after the first visit. There is usually a 30% to 100% pain reduction. Additional treatments 2 to 3 times a week will continue to bring improvement and reinforce the results. Generally speaking, after 5 to 15 treatments, most patients will become migraine-free for years. If migraine recurs, it usually comes with less intensity, shorter duration and lower frequency.
We do not let patients leave our clinic with the same level of pain as they walk in. There was one extremely severe case in our clinic where the patient was paralyzed and numb on one side of her face, tongue and body, with pounding headache and vomiting. The patient stayed under our care for hours and was able to go home feeling better. Two other migraine patients were rejected by the Emergency Room doctors after all medications failed. “Go home. There is nothing we can do for you,” they were told. Both were very pleased with their acupuncture results. They know where to go next time a migraine strikes again.
What do we do for migraine? Simply Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture. No herbs. No drugs.
Scalp acupuncture is more effective than any medication because the increase in sympathetic activity during a migraine inhibits the absorption of medicine in the digestive tract. This is the reason why once a migraine flares up, no medicine works well. At best, they may prevent it but not abort it.
Scalp acupuncture is different. In fact, we prefer to treat during a migraine attack. Acupuncture can rapidly and directly regulate hormones and neurotransmitters, without going through the digestive tract. It balances the sympathetic nervous system and promotes the production of endorphin, our body’s own pain killer. Moreover, there are no adverse side effects.
For those who are afraid of needles, please be assured that our small needles don’t really hurt. What will you choose: an excruciating headache or a little needle prick?
It’s Not Just Your Quality of Life that We Care
We know that chronic migraine affects your quality of life, incapacitates you from work, causes depression and may even negatively impact your relationships. It is not only a quality of life issue. Recent researches find out that migraine patients have higher potential health risks. According to the Oct 28, 2009 report of the British Medical Journal, migraine with aura doubles the risk for stroke. More than one study (see references) found that migraine with aura is also associated with increased risk of heart attacks.
I hope that these findings will motivate migraine sufferers to try an alternative solution that is safe and effective – Zhu’s Scalp Acupuncture.
2. JAMA Vol 296 No 3 July 19
3. Neurology 2009;72:1864-1871
4. Feb 10, 2010 online issue of Neurology