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Treating Alzheimer's Symptoms with Acupuncture

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerNovember 19, 2014

The ancient Chinese method of acupuncture has been used for thousands of years throughout the world. It is a widely accepted practice in the West that has been shown to help treat a long list of ailments.

A number of studies have shown that acupuncture can also have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease, improving mood as well as cognitive skills. Learn more about acupuncture and what it can do to help people living with Alzheimer’s.

What is Acupuncture?

For the last 2,500 years, acupuncture has been used to treat a variety of ailments. The ancient Chinese practice theorizes that there are patterns of energy called Qi, that flow through the body and are essential for good health. When Qi is interrupted, it is believed that disease can occur. Acupuncturists feel they can fix the disruption by inserting needles in specific locations to help restore the correct energy flow and treat the disease.

Acupuncture is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. and is now widely practiced in the West. Although there have been many studies to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture, many are inconclusive because of the strong possibility for a placebo effect. However, promising results have been reported when acupuncture has been used for treatment for a variety of ailments including:

  • Nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy and/or operations
  • Addiction
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Low back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Asthma

Positive Effects of Acupuncture on Alzheimer’s

Two separate studies have shown that acupuncture may be able to help people with Alzheimer’s. In both studies, researchers found that acupuncture could improve the lives of people with the disease by increasing verbal and motor skills and improving their mood and cognitive function.

The study conducted at Wellesley College in 2000 concluded that acupuncture could treat anxiety and depression for people who have Alzheimer’s. The study involved 11 participants who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia. Participants received acupuncture treatments 2-3 times per week for three months. Following treatment, researchers evaluated the mood of participants and found substantial increases in mood, energy and pain from other ailments caused by aging. Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo of Wellesley College and lead researcher encouraged caregivers and patients to give acupuncture a try, saying:

“I think people should check it out. Besides anxiety and depression, they are likely to have other issues such as pain that can be helped with acupuncture.”

A second study was completed at the University of Hong Kong in 2000. This study administered acupuncture treatments to eight patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Participants received acupuncture for 7 days in a row, followed by 3 days of rest for one month. The research team concluded that after treatments were finished, participants shows significant improvement in memory and attention, as well as increased motor and verbal skills.

While neither study provides conclusive evidence that acupuncture can definitively treat Alzheimer’s, their studies show promising results and lay the foundation for longer and more controlled studies which could drastically improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s.

Their results have launched more research in evaluating the effects of acupuncture on the brain, which confirmed that acupuncture activated regions of the brain that were impaired in people who had Alzheimer’s, giving more credence to the theory that acupuncture can have a potential positive effect on memory.

Have you or a loved one used acupuncture or any other alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s? Share your story in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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