Dementia and Acupuncture

August 10, 2015
Acupuncture involves strategic placement of needles at pressure points.

Acupuncture involves strategic placement of needles at pressure points.

Acupuncture is widely practiced in the United States. Is there a potential role for acupuncture in the treatment of dementia? A number of doctors and patients say yes.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is medical treatment that originated in ancient China. The philosophy behind acupuncture is that patterns of energy (called Qi) are essential for good health and that interruption of the flow of this energy can create ill conditions. An acupuncturist works to restore proper flow by inserting very thin needles in key pressure points around the body.

While some medical practitioners have doubts about the reality of these patterns of energy, many believe that inserting needles at key points may stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues, and can potentially provide health benefits.

Can acupuncture treat dementia?

There have been some studies that indicate that acupuncture may play a role in helping to improve cognitive function, one of the major issues in dementia; however, large scale studies have not been conducted to support this theory.

However, some individuals with dementia experience an elevation in mood and decreased depression and anxiety when they undergo acupuncture. Many people without dementia also use the procedure to help alleviate pain-related issues, and people with dementia are also likely to receive similar benefits. There also have been studies that indicate that some patients find that acupuncture boosts the effectiveness of drugs used to treat dementia.

The needles

The concept of acupuncture is troublesome for some, who worry about the pain associated with sticking needles into their bodies. Most people who undergo acupuncture find that this is not really an issue in practice. However, some people with dementia, especially those with advanced cases, may not properly understand what is happening to them when needles are introduced. This could potentially cause a strong oppositional reaction to the process.

Talk with a doctor

There is no one answer as to whether an individual with dementia should consider acupuncture. A patient or caregiver considering acupuncture options should discuss the matter with a physician to determine the pros and cons.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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