Intro by Patrick: I have been having acupuncture for around 25 years, possibly more, I can't remember. It has been constantly fantastic. My first practitioner was Audley Burnett, he is based in Wales and stopped coming to London because of the pandemic. I now see Sarah Shorter locally in Peckham. I am so pleased and excited to feature her thoughts on the impact of acupuncture on Parkinson's. Like Audley, she is a miracle worker. Yesterday I had electro acupuncture - a new and effective treatment (see pic below).
The Role of Acupuncture in Parkinson’s Disease
When I was asked to write about acupuncture and its role in supporting anyone with Parkinson’s disease, I immediately thought of going through the obvious informative steps of setting the scene for anyone who hadn’t heard of it: the historical context of acupuncture, listing how acupuncture may be beneficial for individuals with the condition and giving a mighty warning that it should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical treatment.
However, these steps felt somehow disconnected from the vibe of Patrick’s intensely personal and honest compilation of writings about his journey. I decided, instead, that the only way to do his blog justice was to combine any helpful information about using acupuncture for Parkinson’s with my experience about treating the person behind the diagnosis.
Some clients make an impression on you. I still remember receiving an email enquiry from Patrick through my website about my availability for an acupuncture session to help with the aches and pains associated with Parkinson’s disease. Whenever a client tells me in advance why they want acupuncture, I enjoy delving into the literature and finding any research available. I came to our first appointment armed with ideas about what had proved successful in clinical trials to reduce some of the symptoms in people living with Parkinson’s. Still, I was, more than anything else, very curious and interested in having a detailed intake consultation about where Patrick was and his goals for our sessions and deciding, after meeting him, what the best combination of acupuncture points for him would be. I discovered his commitment to staying positive and proactive, his array of interests and creative projects using photography, his generosity in giving feedback about his treatments and his interest in learning about the mechanisms of how acupuncture works.
As is in the nature of Parkinson’s, our acupuncture treatments had ebb and flow. Some sessions involved lots of needles, some others just a handful, some produced immediate and lasting results, while others felt like a pause to gather and reset. This is also the nature of Chinese Medicine: the cumulative effect that treatments have, the key and lock dynamic of the skill of the therapist and the factors that precede a session, such as the lifestyle choices we make, the medication we are under, and the stress levels we have been subject to; but these appointments invariably came with the pleasurable connection of talking about what life had been about in between sessions and how that was to shape the treatment for the day. At a personal level, they also gave me food for thought, a space to reframe some of my own thoughts outside the consulting room.
While acupuncture is not a cure for Parkinson's, there are ways in which it can help alleviate some of the symptoms and improve quality of life. At this point, I must list what these can be:
Pain relief: acupuncture can help alleviate pain and discomfort, two sensations that can be associated with Parkinson's disease. It may also reduce muscle stiffness and tension, making moving and performing daily activities easier.
Stress reduction: any chronic condition can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Acupuncture can help reduce stress and anxiety, which may influence symptoms such as tremors and muscle rigidity.
Improved sleep: sleep disturbances are common in the Parkinson’s population, including insomnia and restless leg syndrome. Acupuncture may help enhance the quality of sleep and alleviate these symptoms.
Improved digestion: many individuals with Parkinson's experience digestive issues such as constipation and nausea. Acupuncture can help regulate digestion and alleviate these symptoms.
Increased energy: Parkinson's disease can cause fatigue and low energy levels. Acupuncture may help increase energy levels and improve overall vitality.
We all respond differently to acupuncture; it's always important to consult a qualified acupuncturist and your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment. It's important to note that acupuncture should not be a substitute for conventional medical treatment for Parkinson's disease. However, it may be a beneficial complementary therapy.
I feel privileged to be invited to write in this blog, to have been a witness to, and to play a small part as his acupuncturist in the inspirational journey Patrick is on; this blog is one of the beautiful examples in which he has chosen to use the unexpected events life has thrown at him to inspire us to make the best of what we have. By shining a light into some of his thoughts and experiences and sharing them here, I am sure he is always building in others a sense of hope and a realisation that we are not alone.