Acupuncture for Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic rhinosinusitis is a chronic infection of the sinuses that causes nasal congestion, sinus pain, and headaches. Chronic rhinosinusitis, commonly called chronic sinusitis, affects your energy, sleep, and work. Some research suggest that chronic sinusitis can even lead to depression and anxiety.

Conventional medication often is not completely successful in treating the symptoms. Many patients have been turning to acupuncture Chinese medicine for help.  In our New York City acupuncture clinic, we often use acupuncture, acupressure, and herbs to reduce the symptoms of sinusitis, especially during the spring allergy seasons which can exacerbate the sinusitis symptoms.

A comprehensive approach to chronic sinusitis

When it comes to treating chronic sinusitis, it is important to include many of the modalities used in acupuncture therapy.   I use acupuncture, acupressure, and sometimes Chinese herbal remedies to help relieve the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis, help people reduce medication, and avoid surgery.

Large Intestine 4

The acupuncture therapy targets acupuncture points on channels that help reduce pain and pressure in the sinuses.   Acupuncture points can be located on the arms or legs on channels which travel to the sinuses.  These points are LI 4, LI 11, Lu 5, SP 9,  ST 36, St 44, GB 34, and SJ 5.  For some people, acupuncture points on top of or near the sinuses are needed.  These points can include LI 20, ST 4, Bi Tong, and Yin Tang.

Acupuncture points selection is based upon the imbalances which cause the condition.  For example, acupuncture discusses the circulation of energy, or qi, in the body.  If there too little qi, a common cause of sinus headaches, then the qi should be boosted with ST 36 and SP 9.  But if there is more heat which often happens with inflammation, acupuncture points such as LI 11 or ST 44 should be selected.

Acupressure on the neck, head, shoulders, and back helps to increase circulation, decrease pain, and drain the lymph.   I will also instruct my patients on a self acupressure routine for patients to perform on their own. Often, patients will begin to feel relief after a few acupuncture sessions.

It is important to understand that acupuncture is not an either or when it comes to your conventional therapies for chronic sinusitis.  The first goal to is help you feel better.  When you are consistently feeling better you can work with your physician to reduce the amount of medication.

Research on the Integrative East West Medicine approach

A paper was recently published examining an east west integrative treatment protocol for patients with recurrent chronic rhinosinusitis (1).

The treatment involved a combination of the patient’s current therapies, most often nasal corticosteroid spray and nasal irrigation in addition to acupuncture, acupressure, dietary modifications, lifestyle modifications, and self-acupressure.  As you can see, the researchers used a pretty comprehensive approach.

The study was small with only eleven patients. But it showed potential for this therapeutic approach. The patients, overall, reported improvements in their physical functioning, social engagement, less needing to blow their nose, and an improvement in their ability to concentrate.  I hope that larger studies will be conducted to further explore the power of acupuncture to relieve symptoms, reduce dependence on medications, and help people avoid surgery.

1. Suh JD, Wu AW, Taw MB, Nguyen C, Wang MB.  Treatment of recalcitrant chronic rhinosinusitis with integrative East-west medicine: a pilot study. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Mar;138(3):294-300.

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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