Parkinson’s, peer recovery and acupuncture: local news coverage

21 May

By Ryan Bemis

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with the Parkinson’s Support Group of Southern New Mexico at the Rehabilitation Hospital.  The group, with mention of our presentation on acupuncture, is featured in this week’s Las Cruces Bulletin, where you can read more about the group and the the one who started the group, Bill Wallace, recently awarded as Citizen of the Year.  Check it out:

The reality of Parkinson’s disease:  Support is available for those with the illness

They meet monthly at the Rehab Hospital of Southern New Mexico, and last Tuesday May 15, it was a full crowd.  They ran out of seats for all of us.  As I found out, they’ve got quite a few members even though they just started a couple of years ago.  This is a very personal topic for me.  Sitting in this packed room, I couldn’t help but think of how much help a peer group could have offered to my grandfather, Beryl Bemis.  He was a proud, independent, working class man and didn’t like anyone seeing him weak.   And when Parkinson’s left him powerless and dependent on others, it was particularly difficult for him to ask for assistance.  I helped care for him in his last years of life as he suffered, often very isolated.  He died 17 years  ago from the day of this group meeting last Tuesday: May 15, 1995.

The group exists to educate Parkinson’s clients, people like my grandfather, about the alternatives they have to isolation and suffering.  And one of the healthcare options, they told me Tuesday, that they’ve found to be extremely helpful in coping with Parkinson’s is acupuncture.  I was invited because several of the group members are currently traveling 4 hours one way all the way to Albuquerque to get treated at a high volume acupuncture clinic.  They wanted to learn more about our acupuncture services here in Las Cruces.

At this particular clinic an acupuncturist and professor from China, Dr. Jason Hao, sees up to 7 clients an hour and comes around to stimulate the needles on the heads of his clients every so often.  This style of “scalp acupuncture” is a common way to treat Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders, both in China and in the US.  Dr. Hao is recognized internationally as an expert on the subject of scalp acupuncture.  He has taught at UCLA and Stanford, as well as the Walter Reed Medical Center for veterans of the military in Washington, DC.  He has also become quite popular in this southern part of the state.  A recent editorial in the Las Cruces Sun News written by a patient of his, a lawyer, described how scalp acupuncture had helped him cope with a movement disorder.  Three other letters to the editor have surfaced in the Sun News since 2010 on Dr. Hao’s success in treating movement disorders, one written by a medical journalist, Margaret Markham.

As I told the Las Cruces group last week, I’m not Chinese, not the smallest part Asian, nor pose to have the expertise or charisma of Dr. Hao.  However, we do provide scalp acupuncture at Crossroads Community Acupuncture.  And our community based clinic setting follows the model of traditional acupuncture care in Asia, and similar to the model of care that was used by the founder of the US acupuncture profession, a Chinese immigrant, Miriam Lee.  Similar to Dr. Hao’s clinic and Miriam Lee’s clinics for California factory workers in the 1970’s, much like other mainstream acupuncture clinics in China, we treat many clients within an hour.  Currently at Crossroads we have clients who come regularly for scalp treatments, some daily, for different types of tremors and for neurological deficits and motor dysfunction due to brain injury.  Positive research outcomes on acupuncture in China, as pointed out by Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda, correlate with frequent and regular acupuncture treatments.  This is one reason why we offer a sliding scale.  Our affordable prices are designed so you can come as often as you need for acupuncture according to a budget that works for you.  If you are only able to attend acupuncture every once in a while in Albuquerque, we can provide additional, regular scalp acupuncture treatments in between your visits up north.

Similar to our presentation for the Breast Cancer Support group in April at Mountain View Hospital, we discussed last Tuesday the history of acupuncture as an adjunct to peer recovery in the US and worldwide dating to the 1970’s, from addictions 12 step groups to mental health peer recovery, as well as survivors of war, natural disaster, domestic violence and breast cancer.  In these contexts, including inner city America, the Gaza Strip, and refugee camps in Kenya, acupuncture has been a formidable partner for self-help based communities confronting stigmatizing illnesses and oppressive situations, and reducing health disparities.  The most common form of acupuncture used within the context of peer recovery is the five point ear acupuncture NADA protocol (NADA–National Acupuncture Detoxification Association), which we also use at Crossroads for people with neurological disorders.  This protocol was originally developed for opioid detoxification, but has been found helpful for treating a wide variety of conditions, including digestive distress, trauma and pain.  A group based out of Albuquerque called Acupuncturists Without Borders recently reported that the NADA protocol helped reduce blood pressure in clients treated at Nepal community clinics.  Another group, the Parkinson’s Recovery Project, based out of California, has outlined in a self help guidebook how the NADA protocol can help Parkinson’s patients who are trying to taper off and withdraw from medications.

At Crossroads in addition to scalp and ear acupuncture, we use other acupuncture points on the hands and legs to treat neurological disorders.  The evidence base to substantiate the use of these methods is growing.   There is a summary of research and clinical trials on acupuncture for Parkinson’s that is available for free download on the internet:  This article, published in 2009 in the North American Journal of Medicine and Science, outlines the demonstrated benefit of acupuncture for increasing Dopamine levels, protecting against neurological degeneration, and alleviating Parkinson symptoms such as tremors and anxiety.

Neither scalp acupuncture nor the NADA protocol are “the cure” for everything under the sun, but it can be a very affordable and empowering health option for people coping with chronic illness.  Acupuncture can be a great tool for meeting you where you’re at, enhancing the recovery process, and goes hand in hand with other components of your health and wellness care.

Still nothing–not medication, not acupuncture–replaces the role of peer recovery.  The Parkinson’s Support Group of Southern New Mexico is not only limited to those diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but rather anyone with a movement disorder or tremor-related condition, diagnosed or undiagnosed.   Here’s their website where you can learn more:

Thank you, Bill Wallace and all of the members of the Parkinson’s Support Group!

For more information about Crossroads Community Acupuncture clinic and about acupuncture in general, click here.  Online appointments: or call 575 312 6569.

One Response to “Parkinson’s, peer recovery and acupuncture: local news coverage”


  1. Borderland Acu: June 2012 Newsletter « Crossroads Community Acupuncture - May 25, 2012

    […] fortunate and humbled to meet in May with the Parkinson’s Support Group of Southern New Mexico. Click here to read our Crossroads blog about their group, their leader Bill Wallace (Citizen of the Year!) and the use of ear and scalp acupuncture for […]

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