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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Electro Acupuncture for Stroke: Spasticity of the Arm in Chronic Stroke Patients

Acupuncture for Stroke Sequelae

Cerebrovascular Disease or stroke is a potentially devastating condition.  Two kinds of paralysis may occur – spastic or flaccid.  Spastic paralysis means the muscle tone is too tight so the patient cannot move.  This is opposed to flaccid paralysis where the limbs involved have no strength and power.  Both can be effectively treated with proper and consistent rehabilitation.  However, spasticity can become a major problem during rehabilitation because it makes the process much more difficult and painful.

Can acupuncture help?

The Study

Here we present a study published in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging entitled “Selection of acupoints for managing upper-extremity spasticity on chronic stroke patients” (link).  Taiwanese researchers attempted to investigate if electroacupuncture can be useful in relieving the pain and difficulty of movement in spastic paralysis of the arms in stroke patients.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation remain standard for Stroke treatment, but acupuncture can help.  photo by Praisang /

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation remain standard for Stroke treatment, but acupuncture can help. photo by Praisang /

Fifteen patients were divided into two groups.  A group of six received minimal acupuncture and standard rehabilitation procedures and a group of nine received electroacupuncture in addition to rehabilitation procedures.  Four acupuncture points were used, namely PC6, HT3 and extra points Zeqian and Shounizhu.  Both groups were treated for twelve sessions at twenty minutes each for six weeks.  The results were evaluated using angle of muscle reaction, passive range of motion, and dynamic component.

Angle of muscle reaction here refers to the so-called “angle of catch” after a quick stretch.  Passive range of motion means the therapist moves the arm at the elbow joint without the patient exerting any effort.  Dynamic component of spasticity here refers to subtracting the value of the angle of muscle reaction from the angle of passive range of motion.  This value is proportional to the level of spasticity.  Hence, we have a relatively objective measurement.  In addition, the article says that the same therapist did the evaluations on all patients at all times, with the therapist not knowing which treatment was done.


The article reports there was a significant difference in the spasticity of the elbow joint in the electroacupuncture group as opposed to the minimal acupuncture group.  However, there was no difference in reduction of spasticity for the wrist joint.

Now, while this is just a small study, it can help in establishing a protocol for use in such patients, as well as pave the way for future, more large scale studies.

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