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Acupuncture Studies

How to Treat Aphasia With Acupuncture and TCM (Scalp Acupuncture)


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.


scalp acupuncture aphasia
Scalp acupuncture can help stroke recovery and aphasia.

Difficulty speaking, reading or writing due to brain damage is known as “aphasia.” Different types of aphasia can develop after a person has a stroke or head injury. Aphasia can also be a symptom of dementia. Acupuncture—especially “scalp acupuncture”—can help a person regain brain function and speech.

Aphasia—sometimes called “dysphasia”— is a language disorder that occurs because a part of the brain that controls speech, comprehension, and communication is not functioning correctly. This is usually due to damage or pressure on that part of the brain.

Scalp Acupuncture, sometimes called “neuroacupuncture,” is a specific technique that combines Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medical understanding of neurology. Acupuncture needles are used to stimulate points on the head, or scalp, that have a direct effect on brain cells.

Scalp acupuncture can be helpful in treating acute and chronic central nervous system disorders that cause aphasia, as well as cognitive difficulties, trouble with motor skills, and even paralysis.

Scalp Acupuncture can be used to help people regain brain function after having suffered a stroke or injury to the head. Aphasia is generally considered to be related to this type of damage, but speech problems and trouble with cognition and comprehension can often occur with other neurological disorders, too.

This type of acupuncture treatment can also help people with neurological conditions such as:

Neurological disorders cause problems with the way the brain communicates information and instructions to the organs and limbs via the nervous system; this is what leads to a wide variety of language and movement disorders.

Scalp acupuncture can be used to help these conditions because it can stimulate malfunctioning brain cells to begin working properly again, encourage the growth of new brain cells, and reestablish connections between the brain and the rest of the central nervous system.

Acupuncture can help improve some of the most common symptoms of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and MS, including:

Scalp acupuncture can be an effective form of integrative medicine to help people overcome these symptoms, whether they are recovering from a stroke or suffering from a neurological disorder.


What is Scalp Acupuncture?

scalp acupuncture
Scalp acupuncture uses small needles inserted just under the surface of the scalp.

Acupuncture is one of several modalities used in TCM, which is a complete medical system with a history going back thousands of years. The stimulation of points on the head and/or scalp has always been used as a method for treating all types of symptoms and underlying conditions.

“Scalp acupuncture” is a term that refers to a more specific, contemporary acupuncture technique that combines ancient TCM knowledge with modern medical understanding of the anatomy of the brain and the way parts of the brain interact with the nervous system to control various bodily and sensory functions.

In Chinese Medicine, acupuncture points are usually chosen based on the theory of the meridians—channels along which Qi (energy) moves through the body. Along each meridian lie several points that connect organ systems and parts of the body. This concept of a network system of meridians is more metaphorical in nature, rather than based on actual physiology. In TCM we may consider that a problem in one part of the body is related to an imbalance in a (seemingly) different organ system. For example, anxiety and heart palpitations might be treated by needling a point on the head that is on the Stomach meridian.

In Western medicine, “somatotopic arrangement” describes the understanding of how parts of the brain, and particularly the nerve endings on the scalp, are arrayed in a pattern around the skull and correspond to different sensory functions, such as speech, visual perception, balance, and motor skills. With MRI technology, scientists have been able to “map” out how parts of the nervous system on the scalp correspond to parts of the body, like the feet, and the hands, etc.

With the practice of scalp acupuncture, we are combining these concepts and using acupuncture as a way of directly influencing parts of the brain, like the cerebral cortex, hypothalamus, cerebellum, etc. This can help both to heal parts of the brain that might be damaged due to a stroke, and to regulate functioning of those parts, so as to help restore proper functioning of motor activities and the senses.

This technique involves the insertion of small acupuncture needles into the tissues just beneath the surface of the skin on the scalp. Then, the needles may be be stimulated, either by manually twisting, or with electro-acupuncture (sometimes called “electro-stim”). Here, we attach small electrodes to the needles, and a mild to medium level of electric current flows to activate a vibration and/or rotation.

electroacupuncture electro-stim
Electro-stim machine used for electroacupuncture.

As part of the goal is to reactivate nervous system connections, the patient may be asked to be active during the treatment; that is, by moving the part of the body that is experiencing weak movement, or at least, to visualize or imagine themselves performing the movement.

One study of patients being treated with scalp acupuncture for aphasia showed that 46% showed “marked improvement,” while almost all patients showed some improvement.

In a study of scalp acupuncture for treatment of paralysis, all patients showed improvement, while 68% were cured.

While more research is needed, it is also believed that scalp acupuncture may be a good alternative therapy to help treat mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as sleep disorders, like insomnia.


Scalp Acupuncture for Aphasia and Stroke Recovery in Los Angeles

At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience treating neurological disorders of all kinds. Our training in China gave us a thorough understanding of integrative medicine, using both TCM and Western medicine knowledge to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients. We have continued to grow and learn, while working closely with doctors and patients in Los Angeles since 1995. If you or someone you love is recovering from a stroke, or living with a chronic neurological condition, please consider trying acupuncture as an adjunct treatment.


*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician 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 United States.


The Ultimate Guide to the Acupuncture Point on Head for Headaches


by Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

acupuncture pressure points on head
There are many pressure points on the head

Why does the TCM doctor always put an acupuncture needle in top of head? If you’ve had acupuncture before, it’s likely that your acupuncturist used some acupuncture points on head during your treatments. Using pressure points on the head is something TCM doctors do often, because there are so many useful acupressure points on the head, especially acupuncture points top of head. There are head pressure points for headaches, points to relieve migraines, acupressure head points to help anxiety, fatigue, allergies, and many other conditions.

Even if you’re coming in for acupuncture to help some other condition, whether it’s chronic pain, an autoimmune disease, heart problems, or kidney problems, probably at some point your acupuncture practitioner is going to use acupoints on head to help you relax during your treatment. Every single person who comes into our office for acupuncture is suffering from some form of stress, and using certain points on the top of the head can help with stress relief right away.

Other common reasons to use pressure points in neck and head include:

Why are pressure points on the head so powerful? To answer this question, let us explain a bit about the meridian system in TCM.

TCM Meridian Head Points

meridians acupuncture TCM acupuncture points head
Points along the meridians

TCM is based on interdependent systems of organs and energy channels that run through the body. The channels are known as meridians, and along them flows Qi, the life energy that animates the body and all of its functions. There are 12 major meridians and 8 major vessels; the meridians are close to the surface of the skin, and the vessels, which essentially connect all the meridians, are deeper inside the body. While the way in which we think of the meridian pathways is more metaphorical than physical in nature, they can be considered roughly analogous to the circulatory system of blood vessels or the network of nerves of the nervous system as we think of them in conventional Western medicine. 

Along the meridians lie acupoints, specific points that we stimulate with acupuncture needles during acupuncture treatment or with the fingers and thumbs during acupressure massage. The interconnectedness of the organs, meridians, and individual points is the foundation of acupuncture theory.

We use specific points on a meridian in order to address issues in a particular organ or organ system that corresponds (energetically) with that meridian. There are several pressure points for head and neck pain, points to help relieve allergies, pressure points for frontal headache, and more.

Several of the major meridians originate or end in the head: 

  • Gall Bladder (GB) meridian – points of the gall bladder meridian wrap around the side of the head, the forehead above the eyebrow, the temple, around the ear, and down the back side of the neck–just as the pain of a migraine often does. Then it continues down from the intersection of the neck and shoulder, zig-zagging across the torso, and finally running down the leg and ending in the fourth toe. This meridian is used to treat severe headaches, stress, tension that affects the shoulder and neck, and bile-related problems.
  • Large Intestine (LI) meridian – begins at the points of the index finger, travels up the arm, through the shoulder and neck, then comes up to the lower corner of the nose. This meridian is involved in “letting go,” both from the eliminatory organs of the lower body, and exhalations from the nose.
  • Stomach (ST) meridian – the ST meridian starts near the eye, swoops up to the side of the top of the head, comes down next to the mouth, and continues down through the neck, chest, center of the body, down the leg, ending at the point of the second toe. This meridian is used to treat Shen (spirit) disorders, like insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, memory problems, and blood deficiency.
  • Small intestine (SI) meridian – originates in the little finger, runs up the arm into the shoulder and then branches out, some of it going into the major organs of the heart, stomach, and small intestine; then other branches go up into the face, by the cheekbone and right in front of the center of the ear. The SI is used to treat fevers and mental health conditions, among other things.
  • Bladder (UB) Meridian – begins at the inner canthus of the eyes, goes up and over the top of the head, about an inch away from the midline on either side, and then all the way down the back and leg, ending in the little toe. Used to help with invasion disorders (wind, cold, heat etc.) that affect the eyes, sinus headaches, allergies, stuffy head, neck pain and stiffness.
  • Triple burner meridian, also known as San Jiao (SJ) – begins at the tip of the ring finger, then goes up the arm, through the shoulder and chest, up the side of the neck and comes up around the ear, and into the temple and outer brow bone. The San Jiao head points are used to work on dizziness, headaches, eye twitching, and dental pain.
  • Conception vessel – also known as the Functional Channel, or the Front Channel, or Ren Mai, this vessel originates at the navel, then drops down to the perineal area, and  runs back up the center of the front of the body, ending in a point on the chin, in the dip just under the lower lip. This vessel controls the Yin energy of the body and is essential to the health of the reproductive organs and fertility.
  • Governing vessel, also known as the Extraordinary vessel, the “Sea of Yang” or Du Mai – originates in the lower back near the kidneys, runs up the spine and around and over the top of the head, ending in the middle of the face. This vessel controls the Yang energy of the body, and in particular the kidneys, the back and spine.

Top 10 Acupuncture Points on Head

acupressure point for memory
These acupressure points on the top of the head can help improve your memory.

Of course, your acupuncturist will not only use acupoints on your head during a treatment session. We choose a variety of points that will work together to alleviate symptoms and help optimize the functioning of the organs. These specific head points may be used as part of a treatment to work on a specific symptom or condition:

  1. Yin Tang, or the “Hall of Impression” – this is what is called an “extraordinary point,” meaning it doesn’t really belong to a meridian; it stands on its own. Right in the third eye, it is used to reduce anxiety, vertigo (dizziness), help promote better sleep, clear wind and congestion, and relieve sinus pain and headache.
  2. DU21 –  Shen Ting, “Spirit Court” – Right in the front middle of the top of the head, about an inch above the hairline. This is one of the pressure points for frontal headache, also good for sinusitis, nosebleeds, anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep problems. 
  3. DU 20 – Baihui, or “The meeting of the 100s” – right in the very center of the top of the head, master of endocrine and nervous system, used for anxiety, fatigue, mental focus, relaxation, hypothyroid, adrenal problems, hormone imbalance, headaches.
  4. Si Shen Chong – “Four Alert Spirit” – this is actually a set of four “extraordinary points,” which surround DU20. Very helpful for sleep disorders, memory disorders, dizziness, and headaches.
  5. GB20 – Feng Chi, “Wind Pool,” low back of the head, where the skull meets the neck muscles, helps headaches, migraine, blurred vision, fatigue, neck pain and stiffness. We may use this point when a patient has a cold; this is a point where cold wind can get into the body, and why it is important to wear a scarf to protect your neck when it’s cold and windy out.
  6. Taiyang “Great Sun” –  Right in the depression of the temple, this point can help dizziness, one-sided headaches, migraines, sensitivity to light, and jaw pain, TMJ.
  7. GV26 Shui Gou – in the mustache area, between the nose and mouth, right in the center of the crease, this point helps to calm the mind and restore mental focus. Also used as first aid when a person faints or is in shock. Helps stop hiccups. Helps with serious neurological disorders like epilepsy, seizures. Also good for low back strain. 
  8. LI20 Ying Xiang “Welcome Fragrance” – located in the lower corner of the nose, right in the nasolabial groove, used to alleviate congestion, allergy itching in the nose, and to clear the nasal passages.
  9. ST8 – Touwei, about 5 finger widths above the eyebrow, dispels dampness, used for “splitting headaches,” frontal headache, migraines, headache with nausea and/or vomiting, vision problems, tearing eyes, eye twitching, dizziness/vertigo, hair loss. Helps with mental health, when a person is “overthinking” things, or having repetitive thoughts. 
  10. BL2 – Zhanzhu – located at the inner corner of the eyebrow, good for itchy, watery eyes due to allergies, other eyes problems like glaucoma, night blindness, and sinus headache

Facial Acupuncture Points

cosmetic acupuncture
Facial acupuncture points help improve skin’s elasticity for a more youthful look.

As we have mentioned, some pressure points on the face are used to help relieve sinus congestion, nasal congestion, and other issues related to common colds and flus or allergies. Points on the face may also be used to help the facial paralysis of Bell’s Palsy, or TMJ jaw pain.

Naturally, we also use acupuncture points on the face as acupuncture points for the face, that is, when we are striving for facial rejuvenation. This technique is sometimes called an acupuncture facial. Using points on the face can help to stimulate collagen production, help to tighten the skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and strengthen the facial muscles. People of all ages and genders can benefit from acupuncture skin care. Cosmetic acupuncture can treat signs of aging skin like sagging, puffiness under the eyes, and dryness.

Self-Care With Acupressure Head Points

acupressure head neck
Stimulating pressure points on your head and neck can relieve headache, migraine, and neck pain.

What is acupressure? Acupressure is a form of massage that goes back thousands of years in Chinese Medicine. Stimulating the same points we needle in acupuncture treatment with your fingers and thumbs can be beneficial for different types of headaches and neck stiffness, to calm anxiety, and bring more mental clarity.

Choose a time when your environment is quiet and free of distractions, the same as you would for a meditation practice or home workout. Be sure to breathe deeply and smoothly as you perform self-acupressure. Press firmly, applying deep pressure to a point in a small, gentle circular motion. Giving yourself an acupressure treatment only takes a few minutes, and it is a great way to take care of yourself between acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture Near Me for Headaches and More

Every time you come in for acupuncture treatment, your TCM doctor is looking for ways to treat your overall condition, but also focusing on how you are feeling right now, today. Often, people are feeling tired and stressed, beyond and in addition to the health condition that caused them to seek out alternative medicine in the first place. Using points on the head that help fatigue, calm a racing mind, and reduce the physical effects of stress is one way that your acupuncturist is practicing preventative care, while at the same time, making sure you leave your treatment feeling rested and reenergized. The next time you come in for a visit, be sure to let us know how you’re feeling, and feel free to ask us, “What is that point on my head for?”



*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician 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 United States.

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