Acupuncture for Parkinson’s – 2 Practical Reasons You Have to Consider!

acupuncture for parkinson's two practical reasons

#1  It doesn’t make practical sense to just use L-dopa or Madopar alone

L-dopa has been and still is the mainstay of treatment for Parkinson’s.

Unfortunately,  its long-term use can increase the potential for complications. If a patient’s PD symptoms do not interfere with daily life or negatively affect his or her job during the early phase of PD, treatment with levodopa or other antiparkinsonism drugs does not need to start early.[]

Research so far confirms that:

  1. Because L-dopa does not really slow down disease progression, people do not start L-dopa upon initial diagnosis. They only benefit from using L-dopa when the symptoms of tremor or stiffness begin affecting the patient quality of life.
  2. Once you begin using L-dopa, there is a “honeymoon period” where L-dopa supplementation does lead to an increase in dopamine levels. Unfortunately, its effectiveness often decreases and that same medication that worked before may no longer be beneficial for patients with advanced Parkinson’s Disease.

Because the mainstay of treatment (L-dopa) only offers symptomatic treatment but cannot delay disease progression, patients turn to acupuncture in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease in expectation that neuronal degeneration is arrested even partially.

#2 Why Acupuncture is a must-use therapeutic intervention if you have Parkinson’s Disease

The research says it all

Comprehensive evidence has been compiled from a total of 179 randomized control trials involving a total of 11,717 participants. This has come inthe form of 12 systematic reviews (SRs) or meta-analyses (MAs) looking deeply into the safety and efficacy of acupuncture as therapeutic intervention.

All these SRs or MAs have compared the outcome of:

  • acupuncture combined with medication versus
  • medication alone.

The conclusion is clear: If you are also using L-dopa to treat your Parkinson’s, you will fare better adding on acupuncture if you want to better alleviate your symptoms.

What does this mean?

It means that even if you are using L-dopa as a drug intervention, it makes practical sense to also receive treatment for acupuncture.

How do you measure all of this?

The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) has been basis for assessing and evaluating any changes in Parkinson’s-related disabilities and impairments, behavior and mood, motor functions, etc.

Acupuncture combined with dopaminergic drugs had better outcomes compared to medication only for improving the UPDRS score.

What is interesting when comparing

  • acupuncture only, and
  • medication only

is that there is no significant difference in the scores.

What does this mean?

This suggests that acupuncture may achieve an efficacy close to that of medication.

It means that if you or someone you love suffers from Parkinson’s it makes a lot of practical sense to receive acupuncture treatment as one of the interventions.

What is the Webster Scale?

The Webster Scale helps us assess the clinical severity of Parkinson’s Disease. It rates the following:

  • Akinesia
  • Rigidity
  • Upper limb swing
  • Gait
  • Tremor
  • Facial appearance
  • Speech
  • Self-care

How does acupuncture compare to medication when assessing the clinical severity of Parkinson’s Disease?

There are two outcome here that you need to know:

  1. Acupuncture and medication is better than medication alone in alleviating clinical severity of Parkinson’s Disease.
  2. Compared with medication alone, acupuncture alone produced a similar outcome for decreasing the Webster score.

What does this mean?

This means that while acupuncture alone can be used to  effectively reduce the severity of Parkinson’s Disease, it makes practical sense to use acupuncture together with medication to manage Parkinson’s.

Add on the possible side effects of the drugs

We already know that even when the oral dose of L-dopa is optimized, the risk for a worsening of movement disorders is always there.

We also know that other drugs used for treating Parkinson’s Disease may also cause or aggravate nonmotor symptoms.

This is why treatment with L-dopa and other drugs is often delayed in patients with early-stage Parkinson’s Disease

Since we know that acupuncture is able to arrive at a similar therapeutic outcome as these drugs, it really is a treatment intervention worth using.

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Adverse effects of Acupuncture for Parkinson’s Disease?

Research has found no evidence for any serious adverse effects associated with acupuncture. It is a relatively safe treatment option.

What can Acupuncture do for Parkinson’s Disease again?

Research suggests that:

  1. Acupuncture may increase the therapeutic efficacy of drugs
  2. Acupuncture may reduce the required dose of medication, thus reducing adverse effects of the drugs in use.