Acupuncture has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. It is based on Taoist philosophy, which suggests that good health depends on uninterrupted blood circulation through all the organs of the body and that disruption in circulation affects normal physiological function.

In acupuncture therapy, fine, sterile metal needles are inserted under the skin along specially designated points along the body called acupoints. This procedure is touted to stimulate the release of natural painkillers in the human body and affect areas in the brain that process pain.

The most commonly used acupuncture techniques in ALS include scalp and spinal acupuncture where fine needles are inserted alongside the governing vessel, which runs up the spine to the head and over the center of the scalp.

In some cases, needle insertion is accompanied by the application of small electric currents (electroacupuncture) or injection of chemicals (acupuncture injection therapy).1

There are no clinical trials currently testing the effects of acupuncture therapy for ALS specifically. Most of the information available about its potential benefits for ALS symptoms is from clinical case studies and Chinese literature.


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2017 - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: An Acupuncture Approach

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Although the motor dysfunctions are the main symptoms of ALS, spasticity and associated pain are common, and acupuncture has been shown in studies to be most useful for alleviating these symptoms. Significant neurologic improvements in 2 patients with ALS after acupuncture injection therapy were reported by Liang et al. There are other studies showing beneficial effects of acupuncture in ALS, involving motor functions, in Chinese literature that is not referenced in PubMed
One of these is by Cheng Yongde who treated 46 patients who had ALS with acupuncture and Chinese herbs and is detailed in an article by Dharmananda Six patients had clinical remission; for 11, the treatment was markedly effective; for 24, it was fairly effective; and for 5, it was ineffective
The current case is remarkable in that, after relentless aggravation for 4 months resulting in Grade 2 weakness in both feet—which made climbing stairs impossible and caused considerable difficulty in walking even on level ground 2 months of acupuncture reversed most of this patient’s symptoms—spasm, pain, weakness and fasciculation—and she was able to climb stairs and engage in brisk walking for 2 hours every day. This could be labeled as a placebo effect, spontaneous resolution, or a doctor–patient relationship effect.
No conclusion can be drawn from a single case; the emphasis here is on the approach to the patient

2015 - A Modern Clinical Approach of the Traditional Korean Saam Acupuncture

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2015 - ALS Untangled - Acupuncture

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Acupuncture is reasonably safe, and has potential mechanisms of action, pre-clinical studies and case reports suggesting that it could be a useful treatment for ALS. However, before it can be endorsed even as a candidate for a phase II trial, the studies described above need to be independently replicated using more clearly verified diagnoses and more rigorous designs, including appropriate controls and validated ALS outcome measures.

2013 - The Effects of Sa-Am Acupuncture Treatment on Respiratory Physiology Parameters in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patients: A Pilot Study

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2011 - Significant Neurological Improvement in Two Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis After 4 Weeks of Treatment with Acupuncture Injection Point Therapy Using Enercel

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Two patients with ALS were treated with 4 weeks of acupuncture injection therapy using Enercel. These individuals demonstrated significant improvements in speech and muscle strength in the extremities after treatment. The patients were regularly contacted for 3 months after receiving treatment.
Patient #1 did not maintain the Enercel acupoint injection treatments due to restrictions in her home state. She did not receive regular Enercel adminis- trations via oral, sublingual, or intramuscular routes. She demonstrated a slow decline in neurological functioning over the following 3 months, although at the end she her condition was still better than that recorded at baseline.
Patient #2 continued regular Enercel acupoint injection therapy and Enercel use. The clinical improvements he achieved during the 4 weeks of intensive treatment were maintained during the 3-month follow-up period. It appears that persistent acupoint injection therapy with Enercel may be required in order to maintain the initial positive effects.
However, these findings are preliminary. Additional, formal studies and controlled clinical trials are required to expand and confirm these results.

2003 - Treatment of ALS with Chinese Medicine

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Practices used by ALS patient.

New Zealand

  • South Auckland Chinese Medical Centre
    Phone: 09 276 1183
    Address: 271 Great South Road, Otahuhu, Auckland
    Practitioner: Rong Helen Zhang

  1. from ALS News Today ↩︎