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Healthcare Policy and Functional Medicine

By Bill Reddy, LAc, Dipl. Ac.

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Treating Neurological Disorders: Neuro-Acupuncture, a Breakthrough Technique

Editor's Note: Columnist Bill Reddy sat down with doctors Jason and Linda Hao, who specialize in the practice of neuro-acupuncture.


B. Reddy: What got you involved with treating neurological conditions?

J. Hao: Forty years ago when we attended TCM medical school my professor saw a stroke patient confined to a wheelchair and after a few needles in the head/scalp, the patient got up right away. The professor explained what kind of neurological condition, what kind of exam and evaluation he gave the patient. It was so powerful that I wanted to learn more. Modern acupuncture knowledge, neuro-acupuncture, and neuroscience put together became this new subject.

B. Reddy: Do you need a good grasp of western neurology in order to be an effective neuro-acupuncturist?

L. Hao: No, not really. The average practitioner needs some basic knowledge about neuroanatomy and neurology. What we teach in school is on a macro level. They review anything related to some areas we stimulate and that's good enough knowledge for them to practice.

B. Reddy: How does neuro-acupuncture vary from scalp-acupuncture that we have all learned in our training?

J. Hao: Neuro-acupuncture is a contemporary acupuncture technique integrating many different disciplines. It integrates neuroatanomy, neurology, neuro-science, acupuncture needling stimulation techniques, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Blend them all together to create this new approach. Scalp acupuncture is only one of the techniques and only about scalp acupuncture. Neuro-acupuncture includes points in the head, body, limbs, and ears.

B. Reddy: How many styles of scalp acupuncture are you aware of?

L. Hao: There are nine different types of scalp acupuncture. Eight of them are Chinese and there is one Japanese, the Yamamoto style. The most popular types in the U.S. are "Jiao Shunfa" and "Zhu Mingqing."

B. Reddy: Can you tell me a few cases that come to your mind?

J. Hao: I treat many people and have a high response rate for neurologic conditions. For example, in 2006 when I was teaching at the University of Phoenix, there was a lady, quadriplegic, completely paralyzed from the neck down from meningitis. After two treatments, she completely recovered. She was able to move, do everything — she returned to work and got married.

I've treated many children with cerebral palsy. There was a two-year-old boy that was mute since birth, he had whole body spasms and couldn't sit, stand, or walk. After the first treatment, he got up and walked. After three treatments, he could talk and completely recovered. When I treated him, he was two and now he is six and in school enjoying a normal life.

A final example was when I was teaching in Dubai in 2015, there was a 15-year-old boy who couldn't speak. During the first treatment, he said the word "candy." Then he said, "I love you" and when we asked why, he replied, "Because you made me feel good." One treatment produced tremendous results.

L. Hao: We treat many cases of autism. In one case, I treated a 6-year-old boy diagnosed with autism. With one treatment, he was able to talk, wanted to communicate with people, and made eye contact with me during the treatment. Back home, he is able to play with his brother and run. At school he said hi to his teacher for the first time. He now shows his talents — plays, talks, and connects with his family. The family is very happy with his response to treatment.

B. Reddy: What neurological con-ditions does neuro-acupuncture treat most effectively?

L. Hao: Neuro-acupuncture has been proven to be a most effective technique compared to other modalities of acupuncture for treating central nervous system disorders such as stroke, multiple-sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury, traumatic spinal cord injury, PTSD, concussion, cerebral palsy, autism, phantom pain, ataxia, and complex regional pain.

B. Reddy: What conditions are either stubborn or don't have a good response with neuro-acupuncture?

J. Hao: Chronic issues such as tinnitus or longtime paralysis, especially if they have muscular atrophy. Any movement improvements require muscles to lengthen to work. We do get people calling us suffering from a brain tumors or brain cancer. Acupuncture is not going to make a tumor or cancer go away. We need to be realistic, and there are some diseases we cannot treat.

Parkinson's disease, for example, has setbacks. That's the issue that people notice. There is temporary relief but not for long-term symptom improvement. When someone has Parkinson's disease, there is permanent damage so there won't be permanent results. Scalp acupuncture can make them feel better but it doesn't last for more than a few hours/days. It may help their medication work more effectively.

B. Reddy: Since the optic nerve communicates with the brain, do you treat any opthalmologic conditions?

L. Hao: Yes. We treat conditions such as macular-degeneration. Sometimes I think a special technique called eye acupuncture works better than scalp acupuncture. Scalp acupuncture is effective, but does not work for everything when we are talking about central nervous system disorders. There are a lot of other disorders where body or ear acupuncture could work better.

B. Reddy: Would you like to share anything else with the readers?

J. Hao: When we teach, the biggest challenge for new student practitioners is insertion and stimulation of the needles. Neuro-acupuncture and scalp acupuncture specifically cannot use a guide tube; it requires free-hand insertion. We have to learn how to use two hands or one hand insertion without pain or with very little discomfort. Stimulation technique for scalp acupuncture is very unique and special.

Traditionally, you move your index finger and your thumb but it doesn't work because it requires two hundred turns per minute to rotate the needles. So they have to use a different part of the index finger and the thumb to do that.

You can only learn that by observing the master from class to get it. If you want to get a result that's a key point. In addition, there are five layers to the scalp and you have to insert them to a specific layer, the loose areolar tissue.

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