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Strokes can happen to anyone from birth through adulthood. There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

A stroke that happens when the blood supply is no longer traveling to the brain is called an ischemic stroke. A stroke that happens when a blood vessel breaks or leaks in the brain is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

Both types of stroke are serious and, depending on the severity, can cause permanent damage. Rehabilitation is an important part of recovering from a stroke. As you may expect, rehabilitation options are vast and cover everything from physical activity to cognitive and emotional activities.

Some see acupuncture as a complement to traditional rehabilitation methods. Keep reading for more on the potential benefits and risks of getting acupuncture after a stroke.


  • is widely accepted as a complementary treatment for chronic pain
  • is used to relax the body and mind
  • has evidence-based research to support its role in pain relief
  • has few side effects
  • is easily accessible and relatively low cost
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Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine and has been around for thousands of years. It involves the insertion of thin, single-use, stainless steel needles into the skin by a licensed acupuncturist.

These thin needles are placed in specific areas of the body based on nerves, fascia, muscles, and tendons. For example, applying pressure to the “third eye point” between your eyebrows may relieve headache pain.

Although acupuncture is primarily recognized as a natural treatment for chronic pain, its potential benefits extend far beyond that. It has been used to help improve sleeping patterns and digestion. The practice may also relax the body and mind and may relieve stress and anxiety.

A 2017 study found that acupuncture may be helpful in the early stages of stroke recovery by increasing blood flow to injured areas.

A more recent 2020 study suggests that acupuncture may help stroke recovery by alleviating oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body. This can lead to tissue and cell damage. Research shows that oxidative stress may influence the degree of damage caused by an ischemic stroke.

Another 2021 study also showed that acupuncture can help people who develop dysphagia following a stroke, which is difficulty with swallowing.

It is still not clear with acupuncture has a definitive effect on recovery from stroke, but researchers are conducting further studies to understand how it might be able to help in various aspects of the stroke healing process.

Acupuncture works by increasing the circulation of blood, relaxing muscles, and stimulating the production of neurotransmitters like endorphins and serotonin. This results in relaxation and pain relief.

If you’ve had a stroke, it’s important to reduce inflammation and increase the range of motion in your affected limbs. At your appointment, your acupuncturist will review your condition and discuss how they believe they can help you. They may look at your tongue for further information about your health and feel your pulse.

When it’s time for the treatment, you may be asked to lie down. Depending on the area your acupuncturist is going to treat, you may be face up, face down, or on your side.

Your acupuncturist will gently insert sterile, single-use needles at strategic points.

It’s likely that you’ll feel them inserting the needles, but you probably won’t feel any pain. During this time, your acupuncturist may add heat or massage to your treatment.

One session typically lasts 30 minutes. A typical course of acupuncture therapy requires up to 12 sessions. Some insurance companies cover the cost of acupuncture therapy, so be sure to speak with your insurance provider about your options.


  • may cause bruising or bleeding around the insertion sites
  • may cause sleepiness or relaxation, making it unsafe to drive immediately afterward
  • may worsen painful conditions before they get better
  • may not be covered by your insurance plan
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Before seeing an acupuncturist, visit your doctor and discuss your desire to add acupuncture to your recovery plan. They can help you assess whether this is the best option for you. Most people can safely try acupuncture.

After consulting your doctor, research acupuncturists in your area. You want to ensure that they’re licensed and following all health codes.

Licensed acupuncturists in the United States have completed a minimum of 3 years of graduate-level schooling and passed national board examinations to be able to practice acupuncture.

After your appointment, you may experience bleeding, bruising, or soreness at the insertion sites. This is a typical response to the process. If you begin experiencing any unusual symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

To find a broad-certified and licensed acupuncturist, visit the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Here you will find some answers to additional, common questions about acupuncture and stroke:

Does acupuncture help with stroke paralysis?

There is some research-based evidence that doing acupuncture on the scalp may help a person who’s been paralyzed from a stroke recover some motor function. Another study suggests acupuncture may help people with one-sided paralysis following a stroke. However, more research is needed to assess this more definitively.

What is the fastest way to cure a stroke?

Unless the stroke is extremely mild, it isn’t possible to recover quickly. However, if you or someone you know is having symptoms of a stroke, it’s important to get medical attention immediately. If you get to the hospital within the first 3 hours, doctors can administer a clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This can improve your chances of a quicker recovery.

What type of therapy is best for stroke patients?

Depending on your needs, you may receive inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. This may include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. These treatments may help regain the use of your speech, as well as the range of motion in your legs arms, legs, and hands. If your brain was damaged during your stroke, you may also need to see a neurologist for further treatment.

There is some research indicating that acupuncture may help some people who’ve had a stroke, but more research is needed to determine exactly how acupuncture can help and whether it’s a consistently viable treatment.

Work with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you, and check-in with them if a certain treatment isn’t having the desired effect.

Recovery can be challenging no matter what type of stroke you’ve had or how severe it was. Be open with your family and close friends about how you’re feeling so they can support you through your recovery.

It might also be helpful to speak with a therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. They can help you work through your feelings as you navigate your recovery.