Acupuncture is one component of traditional Chinese medicine that’s showing promise in the treatment and management of non-motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, treatment of the disease has changed in recent years. Historically, treatment focused primarily on the motor component of the disease. It’s now evolved to incorporate treatment of other associated symptoms, such as pain, psychiatric disorders and autonomic symptoms. It’s within these areas that acupuncture can have the greatest impact and improve quality of life scores for patients living with Parkinson’s disease.
Most patients with Parkinson’s disease experience a number of non-motor symptoms that often appear before the disease is diagnosed. As a group, this subset of symptoms includes those that do not effect movement, mobility, coordination or physical tasks. Perhaps, among the most disturbing of these are sleep disorders, fatigue, constipation, weight disorders, pain and psychiatric conditions such as depression/anxiety.
Acupuncture offers a drug-free alternative for managing these symptoms. Acupuncture has few to no side effects. Combining acupuncture with drug-based treatment has the ability to increase quality of life scores and daily living activities. A recent review of clinical studies for acupuncture in the treatment of motor and non-motor symptoms published in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics revealed the potential effectiveness of acupuncture.
This review examined all recorded studies published in major databases over the last 15 years. It found that acupuncture – weather used with electro stimulation (acupuncture supplemented by mild electrical stimulation via the inserted needles) or without – showed efficacy in treating psychiatric disorders, sleep problems and gastrointestinal symptoms in Parkinson’s patients.
There was also evidence that indicated that acupuncture in combination with the widely used Parkinson’s drug called levodopa increased its effectiveness resulting in lowered dosage and decreased side effects such as nausea. This eliminated the need for secondary drugs to treat side effects.
One study suggests that acupuncture has a positive impact on brain activity related to sleep disorders, depression and even motor symptoms. Although these studies continue to show positive change, we still need larger studies to substantiate these findings.