Wondering if acupuncture for cerebral palsy works?
This traditional form of Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years and there still isn’t a consensus of whether it truly works or not.
This article will explain why acupuncture may or may not be an effective treatment for cerebral palsy.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the treatment of placing of thin, hair-like needles at specific points on the body to promote your body’s natural flow of energy (qi).
It’s believed that when your qi becomes congested, you experience pain, discomfort, stress, or sickness.
But is there a more scientific explanation for why it could provide relief?
One theory is that by inserting needles into specific points in the body the nerves are stimulated.
Does Acupuncture for Cerebral Palsy Work?
Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage before, during, or in the first few years after birth.
It results in motor impairments that affect movement, balance, posture, and muscle tone.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain, so acupuncture generally focuses on stimulating different neural pathways in the brain to improve motor function.
Spastic cerebral palsy is by far the most common type of cerebral palsy and it’s characterized by continuously high muscle tone.
Over time, this muscle imbalance may cause chronic pain. In the United States, acupuncture is primarily used to treat chronic pain and may also reduce spasticity.
However, while acupuncture may relieve some conditions of cerebral palsy, it cannot reverse the damage to the brain.
What Studies Say About Acupuncture for Cerebral Palsy
In this analysis of 21 studies regarding the efficacy of acupuncture for cerebral palsy, a total of 1718 participants were studied.
The collective data shows that acupuncture in combination with rehabilitative training resulted in:
- improved gross motor function
- reduced muscle spasms
- overall improved quality of life
While these studies have yielded positive outcomes, there are a few limitations to consider.
1) By extensively searching through 6 English databases and 5 Chinese databases, there were only 21 well-designed randomized controlled trials that fit the criteria for analysis.
2) The sample sizes for these studies were small. The average number of participants out of the 21 trials was 82.
3) There were inconsistencies in methodology and reporting among the studies, suggesting that the data may be affected by bias.
Although acupuncture is an ancient practice, scalp acupuncture is a modern technique that’s only been around for approximately 40 years.
According to this article,
“Scalp acupuncture is geared toward stimulating and restoring affected brain tissue, as well as retraining unaffected brain tissue to compensate for the lost functions of damaged tissue.“
The exact mechanism of how scalp acupuncture works has yet to be fully understood. However, like traditional acupuncture, it focuses on activating neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt).
While repetitive, active movement is the most effective way to promote neuroplasticity, the extra stimulation from acupuncture may provide the brain with the boost it needs to reorganize itself.
Rather than relying solely on acupuncture, using it in combination with physical therapy may optimize neuroplasticity.
Is Acupuncture for Cerebral Palsy Worth Trying?
Alternative forms of medicine like acupuncture are often followed by a statement that further investigation is necessary.
The results are extremely mixed and there are many conflicting experiences. Some people report improvements from acupuncture while others claim it doesn’t work at all.
Conclusively, there’s not enough definitive proof that acupuncture is an effective treatment for cerebral palsy. However, it is relatively inexpensive and comes with very few risks, so it may be worth a try.
How else could acupuncture have stood the test of time and still be so widely-used after thousands of years?