An Integrative Approach to Parkinson’s Disease Treatment




Steve Liu, an established acupuncturist and business owner in the Northwest Tucson area since 2001, practices at HanLing Acupuncture Healing Center, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of his father’s passing from Parkinson’s disease.

Liu’s practice is a direct lineage from his mother, Dr. Grace Liu, who studied and practiced under the old school in China. Prior to his career as an acupuncturist, he was an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley, working with lasers, and he has since developed a modern treatment approach to acupuncture which integrates laser.

In 1992, when his father passed, very little attention was given to Parkinson’s disease. Now, 25 years later, it is the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S., with 1.5 million Americans currently suffering from the disease. Although significant scientific advances such as deep brain stimulation and medications help ease motor and non-motor symptoms, at this time there is no cure or therapy proven to slow the progress of the disease.

Liu’s personal story of living through Parkinson’s disease with his father, coupled with the tremendously increasing incident rate, has led him to a personal and professional mission to find natural ways to not only improve quality of life, but to actually slow down the progression of the disease.

He has integrated two contemporary but scientifically founded therapies to address the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Neuro-acupuncture (or scalp acupuncture) integrates traditional Chinese needling with Western medical understanding of the brain. In the last 30 years, this therapy has been extensively studied and shown remarkable results in treating stroke paralysis, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Acupuncture can also help support cognitive function and slow the decline from Parkinson’s symptoms. A study done in 2002 by the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine revealed 20 Parkinson’s patients were treated with 16 sessions of acupuncture. Eighty-five percent of those patients reported improvement of symptoms, including tremors, walking, handwriting, slowness, pain, sleep, depression and anxiety. There were no adverse effects.

Photobiomodulation (PBM) Therapy is the use of a low-intensity laser or LED light source on our biological system. Beneficial outcomes include alleviation of pain and inflammation, immunomodulation, promotion of wound healing and tissue regeneration. PBM is on the fringe of today’s therapy treatments because it does not have an avenue in the Western medical industry at this time. However, many studies presented at PBM conferences around the world in the last 10 years show the positive effects of this therapy when applied through the scalp and nasal cavity on patients with traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Furthermore, the therapy is proving not only absolutely safe but without any adverse side effects. This is a very important point when so often a patient has to compromise side effects for relief of their primary medical conditions.

These acupuncture and PBM therapies can be applied together in one session when a patient is either sitting upright or laying down comfortably. The therapies can even prove relaxing in an environment where soft music and low lighting encourage a sense of peaceful relaxation.

These two therapies will be presented and explored in-depth in a workshop sponsored by HanLing Acupuncture Healing Center, from 1 to 4 p.m., October 28, at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. In addition to Liu’s acupuncture and PBM therapies, there will be four supplemental healing modalities presented at the workshop. Each modality has been empirically and/or scientifically shown to slow down the progression of the disease and/or alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms.

Movement and massage therapies have proven to alleviate symptoms associated with Parkinson’s as well as to improve movement and function in activities of daily living. In this workshop, Joe Pinella, a well-known qigong/Tai Chi practitioner, will present his incredible story of self-healing to overcome a quadriplegic diagnosis. Through his miraculous healing, Pinella developed his business, called Healing Movement Systems, and he has been using the system to help many patients with Parkinson’s disease move better and enjoy more quality of life.

Maria Mitchell will address stiff muscles, tremors and symptoms of constipation. Mitchell’s master’s in Gerontology, over two decades of experience as a massage therapist, as well as certification in Yoga Therapy, makes her an expert in her field. Neuromuscular Therapy can improve muscular movements and alleviate tremors, while Chinese Abdominal Massage (known as CNT) and yoga poses can help address issues of constipation that are often associated with Parkinson’s conditions.

Parkinson’s patients being able to ride a bicycle was first reported by a clinic in the Netherlands in 2012. Additionally, a 2010 study showed an exercise method called assisted exercise using tandem bicycles. This method can be highly beneficial to a Parkinson’s patient’s shuffling gait and hand trembling. The study describes a captain in the front seat of a tandem bicycle pedaling at a very high pace, with the patient being “assisted” to pedal at the same pace in the rear to cause rapid leg movement, which in turn may help the release of dopamine from the exercise to help overall body movement.

A recent Cleveland Clinic research found that this rapid leg movement is the key to the reduction of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. HanLing clinic has acquired a motorized stationary bicycle called Theracycle, which when riding in its high speed assisted mode, can have the same beneficial effect of rapid leg movement as the Tandem bicycle riding.

Karianne Cory, a graduate of Cornell University’s Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Program, will present Plant Based Nutritional Therapy. In a study published in the December 1, 2016 issue of Cell, Caltech researchers showed that signals from the gut microbiome affected the level of neuro-inflammation and the degree of motor dysfunction in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. This study was the first one of its kind to provide a possible link between bacteria in our gut and Parkinson’s disease. Fiber in plant-based foods is the only nutrient the gut bacteria needs to flourish. Cory is eager to help patients attain wellness with plant-based nutrition and instill confidence in their own ability to make choices to enrich body, mind and spirit.

A typical patient may not need all five therapies, depending on their stage of progression, and Liu helps coordinate the appropriate therapies and their frequency. He understands each Parkinson’s patient is unique and there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment protocol.

Liu stresses that this treatment regimen in no way is a claim to cure Parkinson’s. However, this workshop is the first of its kind to assemble a team of practitioners who will present well-founded practices for dramatically improving quality of life for Parkinson’s patients. Additionally, attendees will come away with tips on how to prevent Parkinson’s disease and memory loss, which can be a complication to many Parkinson’s patients later in life.

A Life Changing Workshop: An Integrative Approach to Parkinson’s Disease Treatment will be held from 1 to 4 p.m., October 28, at Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Rd., in Tucson. Cost is $27. Call 520-878-8116 to reserve seats today. See ad, page 8.

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