Scalp Acupuncture for stroke and brain injury
This turned out to be a surprising and interesting week.
Author: Annie Ricketts November 2019
Little did I know on Thursday that my regular acupuncture appointment to treat my adrenal exhaustion would turn out to be so astoundingly thought-provoking and captivating.
2019 has been an educational and insightful year for many reasons, least not that I have had a busy schedule attending some amazing conferences so that I can share whatever I learn from experts in brain injury on the Global BIA website and in support groups. Our primary focus is to bring information to people who do not have medical support and while I personally lack in any medical qualification, what I do have is over 19 years of living with the intriguing observations of walking a recovery path following a severe TBI.
But, it really all started the week before –
On November 14th, I attended a conference hosted by @HobbsRehab titled, ‘Therapeutic Frontiers for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). The special guest was Alex Danson MBE, Team GB Hockey Captain who sustained a mTBI after hitting her head against a wall. Nothing to do with her sport, Alex suffered severe PCS symptoms which she underreported believing she could put mind over matter – just as you would expect from any world-class athlete.
Although I suffered vestibular problems after my own brain injury, they were swamped by more significant issues, so I have never really consciously considered them. Given that it is still hard work for me to think about anything, this is no great surprise to me.
I have never had any help for then, until that is, this week. Most of my issues cleared up over a matter of years and were clearly subject to my brain rewiring or healing of its own accord because I fell through the net and didn’t get any help until year five, but my ability to hear well has always been a problem.
I thought it was down to continuing executive related problems and believed I still couldn’t process information well or filter out background noise.
Personally thought-provoking –
Although I attend conferences and training seminars as the founder of Global Brain Injury Awareness (GBIA) rather than as a survivor, my brain obviously knows better than I do. I was intrigued by the presentations given by Emma Harris, Specialist Neurological Physiotherapist and Dr Phillipa Beckwith, Clinical Psychologist because they were telling me so much that I realised was important for other people to understand.
I hadn’t put the two-and-two together that anything about these presentations was relevant to me, until today. My focus is always targeted on what I can learn to help others and over the last nine years on-line, during which I have been doing whatever I can to help other people, I have realised today that somewhere along the line since my own brain injury many aspects of it were forgotten.
I am fully aware that I keep my brain in an ‘observation lab’ so that I can study it and this is key to where I get my insights from and how I have helped myself so much. I also keep my awareness of my health there too, but that is a whole other story.
Still primarily focused on what I could learn to help others, I discussed my thoughts about this conference with my acupuncturist just two days ago.
My thought was –
While being needled, I always chat with Laurence Bridgeland, of Restoring Harmony, about the things I learn through research and conferences, and he reciprocates with his wealth of knowledge and art. I have come a long way this year because of the applied acupuncture treatments to combat 19+ years of health problems caused by the biochemical cascade or my secondary brain injury that no one ever told me about. That is also another story in its’ own right.
Laurence and I always have elevated conversations about all manner of spiritual and health-related subjects so my asking him this week about whether or not acupuncture can combat vestibular problems after brain injury was nothing out of the ordinary.
I asked Laurence about this because Alex Danson had mentioned during her talk about her experiences that she had tried acupuncture and said that it hadn’t worked for her. As a ‘survivor’ I am well aware that what works for one person may not work for another, but I remained curious about why it hadn’t helped her.
A few weeks before –
A little while back, Laurence told me that there are now some NHS acupuncturists and said they generally undergo minimal training. I know he has studied for many years and in several countries and has a wealth of experience and even intuition about what his patients’ need.
I was left wondering who Alex Danson had seen and whether acupuncture didn’t work for her because she didn’t find the right therapist rather than the therapy couldn’t help her. Having seen insurmountable benefits to my own health this year, it was natural that I should ask myself questions about this.
My interest is the same as it would be for anyone. If someone has a brain injury, I want to do the best I can to share what I have learned to help. This whole journey for me is very focused on logical and metaphysical purpose and reason/logic, so I am always questioning everything as it comes in. My thought is that if we can find any step in the root to an answer, then we should share it.
As Nick Ward recently tweeted, @dr_nickward , Professor of Clinical Neurology and Neurorehabilitation interested in recovery after stroke. Associate Editor at JNNP and Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair,
“Need to transform recovery of brain, body and mind after acquired brain injury through game-changing excellence in care, research and innovation – and we need to do it quickly @SameYouOrg”
The Universe conspires –
I was one of the first people to found an online support group to help people through social media who are living with the outcomes of brain injury. Sadly the group was hacked, and because of my own brain injury, I had no idea how to deal with it, so I closed it down. I started to help others as an ‘admin’ run their groups and continue with this to this day.
A few years later, I started the first community page on Facebook focused on raising awareness, brain injury prevention and bringing information to people who have no medical support. There has always been incredible synchronicity in what I do and rather than post for the sake of it to build followers I push the energy into going with the flow and hold back until something relevant and useful needs to be said.
I have ‘different’ intentions in that I am not interested in numbers but am much more interested in aiding real change and raising cultural awareness through education.
So, back to what happened this week!
While telling Laurence all of this about Alex and what I had learned about vestibular problems post brain injury which had renewed my fascination in vestibular issues, I mentioned that I still don’t ‘hear well’ and, as above, said that it is to do with my brain and not with my ears. I have had hearing checks, and there is nothing wrong with my ears per se.
Also, in the back of my mind was a recent post I had added to the community page I run on Facebook. I had asked people to name their top three issues that continued to plague them and behind fatigue and memory problems came vestibular problems, so this was already something very much on my mind.
Laurence needled me. In fact, he ‘scalp needled’ me, and the results have been incredibly profound.
The effects of scalp acupuncture –
I left Laurence on Thursday evening and took my beautiful Labrador, Summer, for a walk along the seafront where the promenade is lit. It was raining and winter evenings are dark. My acupuncture sessions always leave me feeling energised, but I have always been wary of ‘using’ that energy in case my battery runs out. 19+ years of living with profound fatigue does this to you.
As I walked, I kept thinking. ‘I feel normal.’ This feeling has stayed with me, and although my personality has always been forever the optimist, even when buried a million feet beneath severe brain injury, I am also a realist. I think balance because I am prone to run on idealism and have the sense to keep a feel of the reins rather than always letting my horse run. There are times and places for everything that we are.
So, yesterday, I had a meeting with Claire, who is a caregiver to three immediate family members with brain injury and is related intimately to others. Claire was the driving force behind setting up the not-for-profit company that GBIA now is, and I would never have had the confidence to do this on my own. Claire is like my sunshine – she helps me to blossom. Her business brain and personality are incredibly similar to how I was before my brain injury.
Claire had arranged a meeting with a friend and colleague who is a marketing expert and works with a well-known charity. Cheryl was offering us some of her time, and we met in a busy and noisy cafe.
What astounded me was that for the first time since I fell on my head that I had no trouble at all filtering out the background noise which was very loud, clattering and included screaming children and babies.
I stayed entirely focused on the meeting and ‘heard’ everything. Against the background, which would have previously totally overwhelmed me on the Thursday before being ‘scalp needled,’ I was on-the-ball. First time. In 19 + years – this was the first time I had been able to handle any situation where there was background noise of any level.
And then, today!
Today I went Christmas shopping with my daughter. We went to a small cafe for lunch, and it was so busy that we had to queue out in the street. Despite this, we got a table, and for the very first time in 19+ years, I realised, on my own, and without her input, that I was speaking far too loudly.
My daughter was just about to ask me to pause because I was speaking loudly, and ‘in that moment’ – not a week or a month later – I got it at the SAME time as her! You might think that this isn’t a great thing – but to be able to be reactive in ‘that’ moment is an enormous accomplishment for anything living with the effects of a brain injury.
That this was amazing in and of itself bowled me over! I can’t begin to tell you how many times my daughter has lovingly told me that I am deaf and pointed out I speak too loudly while all the time to me it felt that I was within range and normal only to suddenly realise today that what she had been telling me was absolutely true of how I had been for all those years.
Again, I wasn’t disrupted, overwhelmed or distracted by background noise – I felt ‘normal.’
I know you understand –
I know without any doubt whatsoever that anyone else who is living with a brain injury will understand how I feel. You may have been diagnosed with concussion or mTBI, and you may have been told that you should have been over it in a few days or weeks or perhaps three months. I ‘get’ that it isn’t this easy and what is really relevant here is that the Olympian Alex Danson also gets that recovery from any kind of brain injury isn’t just about mind over matter.
I am elated. I think I have written this logically and it hasn’t taken me much trouble at all. This blog has ‘flowed’ in a way that nothing I have ever written has ever done so before. This may not be the best thing I have ever written – ut for sure I think it is the most hopeful!
God speed you all.
I really didn’t know anything about Chinese scalp acupuncture – I didn’t even know it existed. I do recall Laurence saying to me a while back that they don’t have brain injury support organisations in China because ‘they treat it’ and there is no need. This too, has sat in the back of my mind waiting for the universe to add order to my thoughts and understanding.
Just this week, I had an email asking me about using low dose anti-depressants as clinical practice in people following brain injury to avoid depression. Even before these experiences, I was mindful of the research, which shows that the brain is very sensitive to synthetic pharma following injury. I am ‘anti’ pharmacological interventions for many reasons other than the known effects synthetic drugs have on the body and believe they should only be used while we have no other answers.
I believe that depression and many of the other ‘symptoms’ which plague people following a head/brain injury can better be understood and treated by understanding the science behind what is really going on at a biological level as well as at the level of neurological damage.
We are often led to incomplete conclusions because we focus too closely on singular aspects. We are ‘whole’ and integrated beings so what happens to one cell reflects on the rest – just as we know in quantum science that a split electron continues to resonate as ‘one thing.’
What I didn’t know is that acupuncture can be effective following a stroke or that it can help with a range of vestibular issues, and neither did I know that it can be useful in resetting brain waves and can help with a huge range of brain injury outcomes.
Interestingly, in one of the groups that I admin in, there have been two recent posts about the use of acupuncture at the acute phase of brain injury. These posts were also set on my back-burner, and I encourage every researcher out there to take a look again at existent research before giving time to ‘new’ theories and treatments. I am no expert – but what I do know is that it is possible to broaden every horizon of understanding.