Acupuncture is one of the most important parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has been used for more than 3000 years as prevention and treatment for various diseases in China as well as in adjacent regions, and is widely accepted in western countries in recent years. More and more clinical trials revealed that acupuncture shows positive effect in stroke, not only as a complementary and alternative medicine for poststroke rehabilitation but also as a preventive strategy which could induce cerebral ischemic tolerance, especially when combined with modern electrotherapy. Acupuncture has some unique characteristics, which include acupoint specificity and parameter-dependent effect. It also involves complicated mechanism to exert the beneficial effect on stroke. Series of clinical trials have shown that acupuncture primarily regulates the release of neurochemicals, hemorheology, cerebral microcirculation, metabolism, neuronal activity, and the function of specific brain region. Animal studies showed that the effects of acupuncture therapy on stroke were possibly via inhibition of postischemic inflammatory reaction, stimulation of neurogenesis and angiogenesis, and influence on neural plasticity. Mechanisms for its preconditioning effect include activity enhancement of antioxidant, regulation of the endocannabinoid system, and inhibition of apoptosis. Although being controversial, acupuncture is a promising preventive and treatment strategy for stroke, but further high-quality clinical trials would be needed to provide more confirmative evidence.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Ischemia; Preconditioning; Rehabilitation; Stroke.
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