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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs as Treatments for Dystonia

 By Support Group Member Pat Price

The article original from: Washington DC Support Group Newsletter http://www.dystoniadc.com/newsletters

Many of us are always searching for alternative ways to treat dystonia. Last spring (2008), Dr. Arthur Fan, the head of the McLean Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in Vienna, Virginia, spoke to our support group about the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbology as treatments for a variety of disorders, including dystonia. In China, herbs are the primary treatment for dystonia; acupuncture is a secondary treatment.

Dr. Fan, a credentialed acupuncturist and herbologist, told the group that the aim of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is to activate the body’s own healing abilities. This is in contrast to western medical theory, which targets a specific pathogen. Dr. Fan explained that the two main TCM treatments for dystonia are herbs and acupuncture. The herbs are specifically selected based on the patient’s condition and symptoms. 

Fan treats dystonia patients with muscle spasm reducing herbs such as peony root, papaya, and Tian Ma. 

Acupuncture, used in China for the past 2500 years, involves stimulating specific points in the body with thin needles. Dr. Fan told the group that in TCM, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and in-separable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents the cold, slow, or passive principle, while yang represents the hot, excited, or active principle. Dr. Fan explained that a healthy person’s yin and yang is in a “balanced state.” Diseases and disorders are due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang, leading to blockage in the flow the body’s vital energy or qi (pronounced “chee”) along pathways known as meridians.

One type of acupuncture involves using acupuncture at certain points on the body that connect with these meridians, so as to unblock the qi. Another type of acupuncture focuses on the scalp or skull. Needles are placed in specific areas of the skin of the skull which control tremors or different parts of the body. This type of acupuncture is generally used for neurological disorders, such as dystonia and Parkinson’s.  Dr. Fan believes that acupuncture in the skull or scalp areas is generally more effective for dystonia than acupuncture along the meridian pathways.

At the meeting we also had the privilege of hearing from one of Dr. Fan’s patients, Mr. Webster. Mr. Webster recently developed oromandibular dystonia, which causes spasms around the mouth making it difficult to talk, and spoke to the group about his own experiences with acupuncture and herbs. Since Jan. 2008, a neurologist has been treating Webster with Botox injections around his mouth, and Dr. Fan has been concurrently treating him with acupuncture and herbal treatments. He has had acupuncture treatments twice a week; which involve about 25 needles, mostly in the face and skull. The acupuncture treatments lasted about 40 minutes. He was also drinking Dr. Fan’s special blend of herbal tea three times a day, but switched to herbal pills when he had to travel a lot and could not prepare the tea. The herbal pills are a blend of six herbs and have been approved by the Chinese equivalent of the FDA. Mr. Webster told the group that he believes the acupuncture and herbal treatments, as well as the botox, have significantly improved his condition.

If you wish to learn more about the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, you may visit Dr. Fan’s web site, www.chinesemedicinedoctor.us.

There is more information on acupuncture on many web sites including the National Institutes of Health: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/nih.gov.

Two articles on acupuncture can be found at: http://www.chiroweb.com/archives/14/10/16.html; and
http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/aama_marf/journal/vol14_3/article4.html.

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