Parkinson’s and Chinese Medicine

Parkinson’s Disease is the second most prevalent neuro-degenerative disease that affects about 1 million people in the U.S., and 5 million worldwide has researchers constantly on the hunt for not only a cure, but also a way to improve the quality of life for patients.

By the year 2013, a current research study involving acupuncture is hoping to find answers for Parkinson’s disease patients living with one of the most debilitating side effects – fatigue. In most cases, the first symptom of Parkinson’s disease is tremor (trembling or shaking) of a limb, especially when the body is at rest. The tremor often begins on one side of the body, frequently in one hand. As the disease progresses, both sides of the body may be involved and shaking of the head may also occur. Other common symptoms include slow movement, difficulty in initiating movement, rigid limbs, a shuffling gait, a stooped posture, and reduced facial expressions. In about a third of the cases, the disease also causes or is associated with depression, personality changes, dementia, sleep disturbances, speech impairments, and/or sexual difficulties.

Causes of Parkinson’s disease are not fully known, and there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. Many patients are only mildly affected and need no treatment for several years after the initial diagnosis. When symptoms grow severe, doctors usually prescribe levodopa (l-dopa), which helps replenish the brain’s dopamine. Sometimes doctors prescribe other drugs that affect dopamine levels in the brain (e.g., drugs that inhibit the breakdown of dopamine). In patients who are very severely affected, a kind of brain surgery known as pallidotomy has reportedly been effective in reducing symptoms. Another kind of brain surgery, in which healthy dopamine-producing tissue is transplanted into the brain, is also being tested.

What is well-established, is that the symptoms of Parkinson’s have been well documented in treatment from the classical Chinese medical texts. As a non-invasive intervention, Chinese medicine has been effectively treating the symptoms ascribed to Parkinson’s, such as tremor, depression, sleep disturbances, speech impairments, etc. for centuries. By utilizing acupuncture and herbal medicine, the potential to greatly improve quality of life is greatly increased. The benefit here is also that Chinese medicine never treats symptoms alone, rather it addresses the underlying causes of why the symptoms are arising.

If you feel like you or someone you know of who has Parkinson’s and is interested in improving their quality of life, give us a call at (503) 287-4970.