The origins of acupuncture can be tracked back more than 2500 years and Modern Scalp Acupuncture has been explored and developed in China since the 1950s. An article published in the US National Library of Medicine (Hao & Hao), relays that Chinese Scalp Acupuncture is “a contemporary acupuncture technique integrating traditional Chinese needling methods with Western medical knowledge of representative areas of the cerebral cortex.” Scalp Acupuncture treatment, also known as Neuroacupuncture, is rooted in both traditional acupuncture and neurology, and therapy is believed to be most effective when initiated as soon as possible following a traumatic injury or neurological crisis.
"Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body's natural painkillers.”
Qi: The Flow of Energy
The heart of acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine is known as “qi” (pronounced chee), and is a technique for balancing the flow of energy (life force) through pathways (called meridians) in the body. When needles are inserted into specific points along the meridians, reestablishing connections, the energy flow will be returned to a state of balance. The Mayo Clinic points out, “In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body's natural painkillers.” Truth be told, the two schools of thought do not appear all that different; the objective is to wake up areas of the brain/body that are not functioning properly.
Today’s scalp acupuncture deviates notably from traditional Chinese medicine based on three principles. First, the location of scalp acupuncture is based on the reflex somatotopic system on the scalp’s surface rather than the theory of channels within Chinese acupuncture. The somatotopic process, or how certain receptors in parts of the body correspond to functional areas of the brain, seems to operate as a transmitter/receiver communicating with the central nervous and endocrine systems. Second, even established Chinese doctors cannot successfully perform this type of scalp acupuncture without studying the techniques and observing it being properly demonstrated. Third, scalp acupuncture uses needling of areas rather than points on the skull, based on the brain's anatomy and neurophysiology. In traditional acupuncture, a needle is inserted in a solitary point, but in scalp acupuncture, needles are placed subcutaneously in zones. Placing needles in these zones of the scalp’s surface generates communication within the nervous and endocrine system functions, which “corresponds to the cortical areas of the cerebrum and cerebellum responsible for central nervous system functions such as motor activity, sensory input, vision, speech, hearing, and balance,” according to the Haos.
Following this methodology, Scalp Acupuncture treats disorders and prevents disease using small needles that are manipulated systematically in the scalp to regulate and harmonize the functional activities of the brain and body. Through Scalp Acupuncture, the brain cells related to the patient’s impaired functions are stimulated in an attempt to awaken cells that are malfunctioning, recruit healthy cells to assist in lost function, and promote a return to a healthy, functioning brain. This is a progression and could take years to fully accomplish, so it’s very important to be patient yet persistent.
Trained acupuncturists insert acupuncture needles into the loose tissue of the scalp, stimulating the brain’s underlying neurons. It is a very safe treatment because the skull protects the brain and there are no other organs in the scalp to tertiarily injure. A typical Scalp Acupuncture treatment takes about one hour, and two or three treatments a week may be recommended, depending on the patient’s advancement. One course of treatment is comprised of 10 sessions. Progress is assessed on a continual basis, but after each set of five treatments, a more comprehensive review takes place to evaluate overall treatment as well as future courses needed. The standards vary depending upon the condition being treated, but scalp acupuncture can elicit remarkable results with just a few needles, and often brings about immediate improvement in as little as seconds.
Neurological Conditions Treated
According to the National Aphasia Association, “Scalp Acupuncture is most commonly used for post-stroke and brain surgery therapy. The most outstanding results are with paralysis and pain management in complex neurological disorders. There is good clinical evidence for its treatment not only of Aphasia, but other neurological problems including Paralysis, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, Motor Neuron Diseases, Phantom Limb Syndrome, Meniere’s Syndrome, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Chorea, Alzheimer’s Disease, Restless Leg Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Scalp Acupuncture has also helped people with spinal cord injury (SCI) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Laurance Johnston, Ph.D., a physician with his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from Northwestern University in Illinois, who has worked at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), writes, “Although the scalp acupuncture microsystem can treat most of the same disorders as traditional acupuncture, it is especially effective in treating nervous-system disorders and pain…In addition, numerous people with MS, SCI, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and head injury have also benefited from scalp acupuncture.”
Treatment of Pain and Other Conditions
According to the Hao’s research, Scalp Acupuncture is used in the rehabilitation of paralysis due to automobile accidents. It is successful in the treatment of pain management from conditions such as phantom pain, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and has been proven to have effective results in treating loss of balance, loss of hearing, dizziness and vertigo, as well. It has been proven to be an effective technique for treating acute and chronic central nervous system disorders, often producing outstanding results with just a few well-placed needles sometimes showing immediate improvement in as little as seconds or minutes.
Techniques such as electrical and laser acupuncture, as well as new acupuncture points are currently being developed. One such technique gaining attention is the use of cold lasers for acupuncture. Although lasers are most popular for treating broad areas of damaged cells using a large-area emitter, an increasing number of practitioners are utilizing lasers to stimulate the body through acupoints and trigger points. A related technique, Quantum Reflex Integration (QRI), can be incorporated with reflex and acupuncture points. According to reflexintegration.net, “Quantum Reflex Integration (QRI) combines the powerful effects of cold laser, sound, and reflex integration techniques. Reflex Integration revives the nervous system for quick, visible results. These techniques re-pattern both primitive and lifelong reflexes for the development of efficient neurological processing.” There is a relatively new acupuncture techniques known as acu-laser therapy or acu-vision therapy to help manage conditions of the ocular (eye and vision) system, such as vision loss due to Macular Degeneration, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, Optic Nerve Atrophy, Retinal Detachments, and more. Additionally, auricular acupuncture, needling points on the ear that correspond to various places in/on the body, has proven to be an efficient method of treating a wide variety of conditions, like headaches, allergies, addictions, and pain disorders.
Remember, while some disorders and diseases show near-immediate response to Scalp Acupuncture, others may take years. The success of the treatment depends on many factors, not the least of which are the patient’s drive to improve and a solid support group, as well as adherence to the treatment recommendations outlined by the practitioner(s). Here's a look at a promising case study about a snowboarder who suffered a traumatic brain injury (with coma) from a high-speed collision with a tree, and his 4-year journey to healing through acupuncture.