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Can acupuncture ease Parkinson's symptoms?

Nov. 19, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

When Michael J. Fox got an ovation at this year's Emmys, it highlighted how much he's done to help people understand Parkinson's disease and to demonstrate how to live with it. His latest show (on air in 2013) echoes his real-life story: It's a comedy about a father of three who has Parkinson's.

More than a million North Americans also have the neurological disease (it disrupts production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can affect movement, balance, thinking and emotions). It can take 20 years for the characteristic spasms and twitches to develop. The first signs -- often ignored -- include loss of sense of smell and jerky movements during deep sleep. The latest theory about the cause: a virus that enters the body through the nose or gut. Contaminated, illicit designer drugs also have been known to trigger the disorder.

While there is no cure as of now, some alternative therapies (used along with conventional medications) seem to ease symptoms. The latest news is that acupuncture, when used on a specific point (GB34) on the outside of the right leg below the knee, reactivates, at least temporarily, an area of the brain that is knocked offline by Parkinson's. So far, we haven't seen any negative side effects.

So, acupuncture may be worth a try; ask your doc if it's a good adjunct to your treatment. Then look for a licensed practitioner at www.medicalacupuncture.org.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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