Post-surgery recovery & tremor in geriatric patient

Mrs. Smith is an 86 year old patient who has been coming to me periodically for the last 10 years.  Sometimes I wouldn’t see her for  several years.   She usually came in when her  low back  and neck pain were bothering her.  She had scoliosis and arthritis.    This time  she returned complaining of low energy and fatigue after a hernia surgery three months before.  Though she was tired, she still did water aerobics come rain or shine three days per week!  She was generally in good health and enjoyed her life at Rossmoor.  I am always happy to see her as she is a charming and interesting person.  She had lived all over the world and delighted me with stories of her life in South America and Asia.

In addition to her lack of energy, she complained of an increasingly severe tremor.  Her handwriting had become more and more illegible and difficult.  Due to her age, a light acupuncture treatment was most appropriate for her.  I began by using the Kidney shu or command points on the back and ST 36, known to increase energy and the immune system.  As always, I used  ear acupuncture and needled points the  spine, Kidney, Liver,  and Spleen points.  In Chinese medical theory, the Kidney energy declines with age.  It is also said to rule the spine.  Due to Mrs. Smith’s advanced age, tonifying her Kidney energy would help with the fatigue and back pain.  The Spleen commands the energy in the body so by needling that point in the ear, it would build the energy of her body.  The Liver is usually involved in conditions of spasm.  Needling the Liver point in the ear would help control her tremor.

Mrs. Smith came in for a series of weekly treatments.  Each week, I would treat her back using the Kidney points, her ear and build her energy with ST36.  Gradually, Mrs. Smith’s condition began to improve.  In particular, she said her energy was better and she was able to do more during the day.   I  did not see any improvement in her tremor.  Prior to this time, Mrs. Smith had not wanted to drink Chinese Herbal Medicine.  I thought I could help her tremor with herbs so she agreed to try them.  I made her a formula to build the Kidney energy, tonify the Liver and build the blood.   There are numerous special herbs for tremors.  The three I used for Mrs. Smith were Tian Ma, Gou Teng and Se Kuet Ming (abalone shell).  She drank her herbs faithfully every week.

One week she came in complaining that she had woken up that morning with her lips, jaw and lower face numb.  I added points for the face and GB 20 at the occiput to treat the numbness.  In Chinese medicine, tremors, numbness and spasms are considered “internal wind”.  I increased the dosage of the herbs for tremors.  The next week she reported that the numbness was completely gone after the treatment.

Mrs. Smith has continued to drink herbs and come in for treatment.  At her last visit, I immediately noticed that her hands were not shaking nearly as much.  I asked her how her week had been and she reported that she was continuing to have more energy but that she hadn’t paid her bills yet to know whether or not her tremor had improved.  I pointed out that her hands were not nearly as shaky and she agreed.  When it came to write her check to me, her writing was more legible and she had more control of her hand.  We’ll see how she progresses today…

I wrote about Mrs. Smith in the fall of 2010.  I did not hear from her for a long time when suddenly in early 2013, she phoned and came in for an appointment.  As always, Mrs. Smith was an engaging and delightful patient, now nearing 90 years old.  She reported that she had developed an infection from the hernia surgery she had had three years before and had a long period of hospitalization.   She had been very sick for a long time and still had very poor energy.  She wasn’t able to take her water aerobics class and wondered if I might be able to help her regain some of her strength. 

Mrs. Smith came in for a number of treatments during which time her energy substantially improved.  This time, she wasn’t interested in drinking herbs but loved having acupuncture.  After a number of weeks, she reported that her energy had improved and she was ready to return to water aerobics with her Rossmoor buddies!

About Francine Ball, L.Ac.

I am a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Walnut Creek, California. I have been in private practice since 1984. In my practice I see a wide variety of patients with many types of health problems from late stage cancer to allergies and infertility, and everything in between. The age of my patients range from infants to 96 years old. I have many children and teenage patients. My areas of specialty are internal medicine, infertility and neurology.
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