Chinese Scalp Acupuncture, a modern acupuncture technique designed to treat primarily but not limited to neurological disorders, was developed by Dr. Jiao Shunfa, a famous neurosurgeon living in China, and Dr. Zhu, currently practicing in San Jose, California. Dr Zhu graduated from the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in 1964 and is internationally recognised for his role in the development of Scalp Acupuncture as well as having written textbooks on the subject and given lectures worldwide.
Scalp Acupuncture supplements traditional Chinese acupuncture by way of stimulating Qi (a form of vital energy) in the local microsystem of the head and is used in the treatment of nervous system disorders such as:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – specific protocols have been developed for the treatment of MS
- Stroke – by altering blood hormone levels that influence stroke inducing platelet clumping
- Spinal cord injury
During treatments, very fine needs are inserted at a 15 – 30 degree angle into the scalp tissue in zones specifically associated with functions and regions of the body. These are periodically manipulated to stimulate Qi, in association with movements of the affected body area or qigong based breathing exercises. Scalp Acupuncture is thought to effectively supplement conventional Western medicine (CWM) in the treatment of neurological conditions.
Allam, Eldine and Helmy (2008) conducted a pilot trial on the effect of Scalp Acupuncture on language development of children with autism, a neurodevelopment disorder resulting in delays in social interaction, language and symbolic or imaginative play skills. The onset of autism is usually before the age of 3 years with the main form of rehabilitation being language therapy (LT). This pilot trial focused on Scalp Acupuncture as a complementary modality to language therapy in children with autism.
The trial took 20 children aged from 4 – 7 years who had been diagnosed with autism according to DSM IV classification. The children were equally distributed into two groups – Group A and Group B. All of the participants had language therapy twice weekly focusing on cognitive and verbal abilities. Group B had the addition of Scalp Acupuncture sessions twice weekly. Acupuncture points used included Du-20, 26 and 17, 3 temple needles and cerebrum and aphasia points using 0.3 x 30mm needles. Language tests were performed before and after therapy.
Both groups showed significant improvement though highly significant results we noted in Group B with the addition of Scalp Acupuncture (attention 2.8 ± 0.8 in Group A versus 3.5 ± 0.8 in Group B; receptive semantics were 7 ± 3.8 in Group A versus 9.4 ± 3.1 in Group B). Expressive semantics significantly improved in both groups. Allam et al. (2008) concluded that “Scalp AP is a safe and complementary modality when combined with LT and has significantly positive effect on language development in children with autism.”
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) by Lee et al. (2013) looked at Scalp Acupuncture for Parkinson’s disease. Two independent reviewers extracted data from RCTs comparing the efficacy of Scalp Acupuncture for Parkinson’s disease against conventional therapies (CTs). The general intervention for Parkinson’s includes pharmacological, physical or deep brain stimulation usually accompanied by adverse reactions, for example, dyskinesia and motor function effects.
Four RCTs met the inclusion criteria covering a total of 184 Parkinson’s patients, all of which originated in China. These RCTs tested the effects of Scalp Acupuncture and medication versus medication only. Lee et al. (2013) “suggested that the effectiveness of Scalp Acupuncture for Parkinson’s disease is promising, however the evidence is not convincing. A sham-controlled RCT design that adheres to the CONSORT and STRICTA guidelines to overcome methodological weaknesses and that includes a large sample size is strongly recommended to confirm the precise effect of Scalp Acupuncture on Parkinson’s disease.”
A meta-analysis of RCTs looking at the effects of Scalp Acupuncture for acute ischemic stroke was conducted by Wang et al. (2012). Researchers chose eight studies with a total of 538 participants which looked at Scalp Acupuncture therapy plus CWM in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke. CWM includes:
- General supportive care, e.g. oxygen, blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring
- Specialised care, e.g. antiplatelet agents, vasodilators
- Treatment of acute complications, e.g. seizures, dysphagia, pneumonia
Neurological deficit scores were used as the outcome measure and based on the results, Wang et al. (2012) concluded Scalp Acupuncture is “significantly effective in improving neurological deficit scores and clinical effective rate when compared with CWM control.” Though they also noted a generally low methodology of the trials with no adverse effects documented.
Finally, Hao et al, (2013) produced a case report on Scalp Acupuncture for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that concluded, “Scalp Acupuncture has proven to have superior success in treating MS and other central nervous system damage” and encourages suffers to obtain treatment as early as possible after diagnosis.
Scalp acupuncture appears to have the fastest track record for improving symptoms. It is easily accessible, less invasive and often less expensive. Further quality study is needed to evaluate the mechanisms underlying Scalp Acupuncture’s effect on the central nervous system so that its potential can be fully explored and applied.
Allam, H., Eldine, N. and Helmy, G. (2008). Scalp Acupuncture Effect on Language Development in Children with Autism: A Pilot Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(2), pp.109-114.
Drmihaly-acupuncture.com. (2017). Chinese Scalp Acupuncture History and Neuroscience. [online] Available at: http://www.drmihaly-acupuncture.com/chinese-scalp-acupuncture-neuroscience.html [Accessed 5 May 2017].
Hao, J., Cheng, W., Liu, M., Li, H., Lü, X. and Sun, Z. (2013). Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis with Chinese Scalp Acupuncture. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2(1), pp.8-13.
Lee, H., Park, H., Lee, S., Shin, B., Choi, J. and Lee, M. (2013). Scalp acupuncture for Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 19(4), pp.297-306.
Wang, Y., Shen, J., Wang, X., Fu, D., Chen, C., Lu, L., Lu, L., Xie, C., Fang, J. and Zheng, G. (2012). Scalp Acupuncture for Acute Ischemic Stroke: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, pp.1-9.