Acupuncture for Stroke Recovery

Strokes can be caused by many things, from clots in the brain to ruptured blood vessels. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This can cause damage to the brain tissue and lead to paralysis or other disabilities.

Stroke recovery will vary from person to person, but one thing all survivors share is the need for intensive rehabilitation therapy to help them recover as much function as possible. In recent years, acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for stroke recovery.*


Benefits of Acupuncture for Stroke Recovery

As a form of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Both World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health recommend acupuncture as an alternative and complementary strategy for stroke treatment and for improving stroke care.

  • Acupuncture may help stroke patients recover by stimulating the nervous system and promoting the release of neurochemical substances that can help repair damaged brain tissue.
  • Acupuncture has also been shown to improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation. These effects can help to speed up the healing process and improve the function of the affected area.
  • Acupuncture has been shown to be particularly effective in helping with speech recovery, sensory problems and pain management after a stroke. A course of treatment typically involves around 10-12 sessions, although this will vary depending on the individual’s needs.


There’s a growing pool of clinical evidence supporting acupuncture for stroke recovery – especially electroacupuncture.
There’s a growing pool of clinical evidence supporting acupuncture for stroke recovery – especially electroacupuncture.*


What does the Research Say?

There is still much research to be done on the efficacy of acupuncture for stroke recovery. However, early studies have shown promising results. Acupuncture may be an effective treatment for stroke patients who are looking for an alternative or complementary therapy.

There is growing evidence that acupuncture may be effective in the treatment of stroke. A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis found that acupuncture was associated with significant improvements in motor function, activities of daily living, and quality of life in stroke patients.*

In 2021, investigators from Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and its affiliated hospital conducted a clinical trial comparing regular scalp acupuncture with warm scalp acupuncture. The results show that Acupuncture improves ischemic stroke patient outcomes and the warm scalp acupuncture group produced superior patient outcomes.*

A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis also found that acupuncture in combination with rehabilitation may have benefits for the treatment of acute and subacute stroke sequelae in comparison with rehabilitation alone.*  In 2016, a randomised controlled clinical trial found that acupuncture treatment is effective in reducing shoulder pain after stroke.* Studies show, acupuncture is safe and improves cognitive function and depressive disorder without obvious serious adverse events for post stroke patients.  Furthermore, acupuncture can be more effective and safe than antidepressants in the treatment of post stroke depression.*

Overall, acupuncture offers benefits for individuals who want to improve mobility after stroke. It is shown to offer hope for recovery from poststroke paralysis and other issues that interfere with movement, therefore, it could be well worth a try.

If you prefer not to go for acupuncture, there are other remedies for stroke recovery that you can do. These methods also include TuiNa Massage and Chinese herbal medicine. TuiNa massage uses the hands and fingers to apply pressure to certain points on the body. One study demonstrated that TuiNa could increase upper extremity function and reduced depression in patients. Chinese herbal medicine may help cope with secondary medical complications after stroke. In addition, this can release more energy to pursue rehabilitation.




*Electroacupuncture as an adjunctive therapy for motor dysfunction in acute stroke survivors: a systematic review and meta-analyses

*Overview of systematic reviews with meta-analyses on acupuncture in post-stroke cognitive impairment and depression management

* Acupuncture for shoulder pain after stroke: A randomized controlled clinical trial

* Effectiveness of Acupuncture Combined with Rehabilitation for Treatment of Acute Or Subacute Stroke: A Systematic Review

*Huang Cihui, Lin Yunxin, Zhuang Zeqin, Shen Danting, Jiang Huaqing, Zheng Liang, Clinical Observation of Therapeutic Efficacy of Moxibustion with Warming Needle at Scalp Points for Treatment of Ischemic Stroke, Journal of Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, August 2021, Vol. 38, No. 8.



*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your GP for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the UK.