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Acupuncture for Alzheimer's Disease


The Chinese people have a long history of esteem for the elderly. Traditionally, elderly people are treasured for their wisdom and experience. That's why there is much in the practice of acupuncture devoted to problems of dementia and aging.


To an acupuncturist practicing traditional Chinese Medicine, Alzheimer’s disease is seen and treated much the same as any other kind of dementia. The TCM diagnosis is usually Deficiency of Kidney and Deficiency of Heart Blood or Yin. This deficiency results in a weakened mind, inability to concentrate, and disturbed spirit.


New research presented at the World Alzheimer’s Conference in Washington, D.C. has shown promising results with acupuncture used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In two separate studies - one at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, the other at the University of Hong Kong, scientists have found that acupuncture can increase an Alzheimer patient's verbal and motor skills and improve mood and cognitive function.

In the first study, Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo studied 11 patients, 10 with Alzheimer's and one with vascular dementia. Subjects were treated with acupuncture twice a week for three months and were subjected to a variety of tests before and after being treated, including the Cornell Scale for Depression, the Speilberger State Anxiety Inventory, and the Mini-Mental Status Exam (MMSE) for cognitive function.

The researchers found "statistically significant improvements" in the depression and anxiety scores of patients. The average Spielberger anxiety score at the start of treatment was 49.5; at the end of three months, it had decreased to 40.1. Four subjects experienced "substantial improvement" in mood symptoms after acupuncture; of those, two also showed improved MMSE scores, and a third improved in fluency and naming ability.

While no control group was used, Lombardo said that those delivering treatment noted improved thinking skills along with the other improvements, which she believes indicates a close relationship between cognitive ability, anxiety and depression.

"Besides anxiety and depression, they are likely to have other issues such as pain
that can be helped with acupuncture."

In Dr. Kao's study, eight patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease were treated with acupuncture at the University of Hong Kong. Treatment consisted of needling at eight acupuncture points: acupuncture point Shishencong, (four points on the scalp), acupuncture point shen men (HT7 on the wrists) and acupuncture point tai xi (KI3 on the feet).

Needling for each acupuncture point lasted 30 minutes. Alzheimer patients received a seven-day treatment cycle with a three-day break in between for a total of 30 days.
Alzheimer patients were graded using the TCM Symptoms Checklist for Alzheimer's and the MMSE exam to measure their levels of orientation; memory; attention; and the ability to name an object, follow verbal and written commands, and write a sentence spontaneously.

After acupuncture treatment, Kao's team reported that patients "significantly improved" on measures of verbal orientation and motor coordination and had higher overall MMSE scores. They also noted that patients "showed a significant overall clinical improvement" on the TCM checklist, leading the researchers to conclude that acupuncture treatment "has shown significant therapeutic effects" in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.


Some Acupuncture Points Used to Treat Alzheimer's

To tonify the Kidney:

Acupuncture point Kidney 3
Acupuncture point Kidney 3

To Settle the Spirit:

Acupuncture point Heart 7
Acupuncture point Heart 7

To Stimulate the Mind and lift the spirit:

Acupuncture Point GV 20
Acupuncture Point GV 20