Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder which is characterised by motor symptoms such as tremors at rest, postural disturbances, muscle rigidity and/or bradykinesia where a patient may have slowed movements or frequent halting to their movements. Parkinson’s is generally considered an age-related disease and most commonly affects people over the age of 65. The exact causes of Parkinson’s are still debated in the medical and scientific community however there seems to be a loss of neurons in the basal ganglia which leads to a reduction in dopamine which is essential for proper basal ganglia function – specifically Parkinson’s affects the control of voluntary movement.

 

What does western medicine say about Parkinson’s disease?

In western medicine, Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed based on clinical symptoms as specific biological/imaging markers are yet to be accurately attributed to Parkinson’s disease. Patients must have bradykinesia and at least one of the following additional symptoms: muscular rigidity, a 4-6Htz resting tremor or postural instability (which has not been caused by primary visual, vestibular, cerebellar or proprioceptive dysfunction) (Clarke et al., 2016). Western medicine has not found a strong cure for Parkinson’s so it is mostly treated with either medications (levodopa or anticholinergic drugs) or surgery (stimulation surgery, destructive surgery or deep brain stimulation). The medications often have worsening side effects the longer they are taken and there are always risks associated with brain surgery.

 

What does Chinese Medicine say about Parkinson’s disease?

As we know, Chinese Medicine has a different way of looking at disease and some of the terminology can get a bit confusing if you have a western back ground so please – if you have any questions reach out:
@rebalancechinese
eve@rebalancetcm.com
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From a Chinese Medicine perspective, Parkinson’s diagnosis has 5 possible syndromes we can address:

  1. Qi and Blood deficiency
  • Muscles, tendons, and bones are not properly nourished.
  • Limb tremor or prolonged, involuntary head shaking, walking instability.
  • Pale complexion, back stiffness, limb cramps and/or shortness of breath may be present.
  • Other qi and blood deficiency indicators: reduced appetite, loose stools, pain in the abdomen, dizziness, slippery pulse, swollen tongue.
  1. Wind from phlegm-heat
  • Phlegm-heat accumulation disturbs the Liver and causes internal wind.
  • Limb tremor or prolonged, involuntary head shaking.
  • Chest tightness, heaving sensation in the head, dizziness and/or coughing with phlegm may be present.
  • Other wind indicators: Swelling in the lower limbs, constipation, dark urine, wiry and slippery pulse, yellow tongue coat (sometimes greasy).
  1. Liver and Kidney deficiency
  • Muscles, tendons, and bones are not properly moistened.
  • Limb tremor or prolonged, involuntary head shaking, walking instability.
  • Dizziness, tinnitus, limb cramps and/or clumsiness may be present.
  • Other liver and kidney deficiency indicators: numbness, insomnia, knee weakness, lower back pain, dry mouth, wiry pulse, red tongue with scanty coat.
  1. Blood stagnation
  • Blood stagnates in the meridians.
  • Limb tremor or prolonged, involuntary head shaking.
  • Back stiffness, limb cramps, heavy sensation in body and/or reduced motivation may be present.
  • Other blood stagnation indicators: Sharp pain, some menstrual problems, bowel and/or urine incontinence, wiry pulse, purple tongue body.
  1. Kidney and Spleen Yang deficiency
  • Muscles, tendons, and bones are not properly strengthened.
  • Limb tremor or prolonged, involuntary head shaking.
  • Limb coldness, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus and/or long and cold urination may be present.
  • Other kidney and spleen yang deficiency indicators: Lower back pain/weakness, cold extremities, diarrhoea, weak pulse, pale tongue with a white coat.

 

What Chinese Medicine treatments are used in cases of Parkinson’s disease?

  1. Meridian Acupuncture
  • Acupuncture points on the meridians are used (see our meridian blog here: INSERT LINK).
  • Acupuncture points are stimulated with needles.
  • Stimulating these areas is used to treat one or more of the syndromes above.
  • Recommended once per week.
  1. Scalp Acupuncture
  • Points based on the scalp somatotopic system.
  • Points are stimulated with needles.
  • Stimulating these reflex areas influences the cerebral cortex, thalamus and cerebellum among other endocrine and CNS areas.
  • Recommended once per week.
  1. Herbal medicines
  • No needles.
  • Herbs can be selected on an individualised basis and account for differences in symptoms.
  • Herbs can be taken every day.
  • Herbs can be used in the treatment of the above syndromes and/or to have specific effects on the organs/systems of the body.

These treatments can be used alongside western medicine interventions. You should always keep your healthcare team informed of the different treatments you are receiving.

 

References:

Clarke, C. E., Patel, S., Ives, N., Rick, C. E., Woolley, R., Wheatley, K., Walker, M. F., Zhu, S., Kandiyali, R., Guiqing, Y., & Sackley, C. M. (2016). Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of physiotherapy and occupational therapy versus no therapy in mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease: A large pragmatic randomised controlled trial (PD REHAB). NIHR Journals Library.

Kuoch, D. J. (2011). Acupuncture Desk Reference (2nd ed.). Acumedwest Inc.

Wang, T. (2021). Acupuncture for Brain: Treatment for Neurological and Psychologic Disorders. Springer.