Acupuncture and sinus infection

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Where Western Medicine Fails, Chinese Medicine Nails It!

“It’s not just you — seasonal allergies hitting early, hard”, MSNBC reported earlier this week. Due to the milder winters that much of the US has experienced recently, allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer. This can really hurt those prone to sinus infection and chronic sinusitis.

Sinus infections usually start with a cold or allergies that cause sinus inflammation and mucus production. The mucus builds up and gets blocked because the sinus membranes are enlarged. Trapped there, the mucus settles into perfectly inaccessible pockets in the sinuses which provide a perfect bed for pathogens to breed. With a sinus infection or sinusitis you may have any of these symptoms: stuffy nose, headache, fever, sore throat, and painful pressure around the cheeks, eyes, and forehead.

Now we read in a just-published study that antibiotic use for sinus infections does not work! The findings show that individuals who have had a sinus infection for a week (but not as long as 28 days) fared no better than the group that received the placebo. Science News reports that James Gill, a practicing physician who heads Delaware Valley Outcomes Research, surmised that, “…even the correct antibiotic often fails to knock out a sinus infection because the bacteria ‘are socked into closed spaces’ in the sinuses, and the drugs just don’t reach them well.”

Luckily, Traditional Chinese Medicine is very effective at treating sinus congestion and infection through the use of both acupuncture and herbal medicine. Patients may come in unable to breathe through their nose but after receiving acupuncture (the Bitong point, translates as “opening up the nose”) they can breathe freely, even during the first treatment. There are also points that facilitate mucus drainage. It is important to get acupuncture and take prescribed herbs when we get a head cold or sinus infection –especially early on– so that the mucus can be drained before pathogens proliferate and cause the worst symptoms. Herbs are often used in chinese medicine to treat sinus problems. Gan Jiang (dried ginger) and Bai Zhi (angelica root) are especially effective at clearing up the sinuses at the onset of a head cold.

For preventative care at home, Wei Liu and Changzhen Gong with the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) share some acupressure points for sinusitis:

Self-Acupressure Tips for Sinusitis (Do Three Times on Each Point Daily)

Bitong (Extra Point): Located on each side of the nose, at the bottom edge of the nasal bones.    Yingxiang (LI 20): Located in the groove on each side of the nostrils, at the widest point of the nostrils. Hegu (LI-4): Located at the highest spot of the muscle between the thumb and index finger on the back of the hand when the thumb and index finger are close together.

Hold each point firmly but not so that you feel pain. Hold for up to three minutes.


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