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Strokes are on the top list of symptoms treated by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

In TCM theory, stroke is not just considered an illness of the brain. It affects the meridians, other organs and blood vessels as well. It is thought to be caused by internal and external influences that induce a build up of qi and blood and create a high pressure state, which ultimately leads to a stroke. This is similar to western medicine’s understanding of high blood pressure being a risk factor for developing a stroke.

Stroke Rehabilitation

The mechanisms by which a stroke occurs and causes bodily damage are complicated. At least four external factors and six internal factors have been identified that contribute to this process. The external risk factors that contribute to the development of a stroke include the hypo- functioning or under functioning of the liver and kidney, improper diet and body overstrain, emotional disturbance, and aging and weak body constitution. These lead to further problems inside the body that upset its natural healthy balance.

The six internal influences that contribute to a stroke are deficiency states such as Yin deficiency and Qi; deficiency an excess of fire (sometimes referred to as excessive heat) such as liver-fire and heart-fire; wind evils such as endogenous wind originating from inside the body and exogenous wind originating from outside the body; an accumulation of phlegm; stagnant Qi flow and blood stasis. These six factors will interact with each other under certain conditions to bring forth diseases such as a stroke.

China’s extensive experience in the use of TCM in stroke therapy indicates that TCM preparations are effective, with few or no side-effects. There are more than 100 traditional medicines in use for stroke therapy in China. Some of their therapeutic effects in stroke have been confirmed by recent clinical studies.

Some of these methods are presented here:

Acupuncture for Mobility Recovery

In the days before the advent of Western medicine in China, stroke patients were given acupuncture treatment within the first 36 hours. Blood letting from the scalp and finger tips were also used, particularly in the dry and windy regions of the north, to relieve the build up of blood pressure.

Nowadays, hospital based intervention is the common initial treatment for stroke patients. If acupuncture is used as a complementary therapy, the regime usually only starts weeks after the initial treatment. Nevertheless, acupuncture remains an effective method to clear any stagnation and blockages in the meridian system that in turn will help improve the mobility of stroke patients.

It is generally agreed by practitioners that acupuncture can be applied at any point of time during the  patient’s recovery. It is however recommended that acupuncture treatment be initiated within the first 100 days after the stroke in order to facilitate a quick recovery of the nervous systems essential for verbal expression and mobility.

Diet & Herbs for Muscle Recovery

The diet of a stroke patient should be monitored carefully to aid in the recovery process. The body’s natural digestion and detoxification processes should be monitored and promoted.

This means the avoidance of “heaty” and starchy food like rice, flour, and shellfish. Grains like millet and corn are considered beneficial for digestion. Tubers like sweet potatoes and yam, despite containing starch, also help.

Lean beef tendon cooked in a slow cooker with Tian Ma (天麻 or Rhizoma Castrodiae) results in a broth that can help both in providing the necessary proteins for muscle recovery as well as regulating blood pressure. Radish soup helps in improving appetite and the addition of 6 – 8 hawthorn berries (山楂 or San Zha) helps reduce cholesterol levels. Jujube or Chinese red dates (紅棗) also helps in improving blood quality and health.

Other vegetables that should be included in diet the so-called “colourful vegetables” like celery, bitter gourd, garlic, broccoli, green peppers, carrots, spinach, potatoes and bamboo shoots. These vegetables are high in phytonutrients that act as antioxidants within the body to maintain good health and repair damage to tissues.

Herbal remedies should however be taken in accordance to the advice of a qualified TCM doctor as some may contraindicate existing medication like blood thinners that may have been prescribed to a stroke patient.

Foot Baths & Acupressure for Circulation Recovery

Herbal foot baths and acupressure Tuina therapy help improve circulation and clear stagnation of meridians. These act to improve recovery time and stimulate the body’s natural healing processes.

Breathing Exercises for Energy Recovery

Sunshine and fresh air are good panaceas for all kinds of disorders. Breathing exercises help accumulate energy (see this article for more details). The process of exhalation also helps relieve the tension of the stiff joints, so it is helpful to stretch the body while exhaling.

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate

Drink 2 -3  glasses of room temperature water the first thing in the morning. It helps the body clear of toxins accumulated through the body’s natural detoxification system.

Stroke recovery using the above methods normally takes up to 12 weeks but other factors such as the age of the patient and the circumstances of the stroke may shorten or lengthen the recovery process.

The best cure is still prevention. A stroke is almost always the nett result of a dysfunctional internal body. Daily walks and gentle exercises like Taichi, Qigong, Yoga or Pilates as well as a proper diet and lifestyle goes a long way towards the prevention of strokes.

To find out more about how we can help with stroke recovery, give us a call for an appointment.



Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Stroke Recovery
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