Sinusitis is a medical condition where the tissue linings of the sinuses become inflamed. It can be short term, caused by a viral or bacterial infection, or a symptom of a chronic disease that’s triggered by allergies or other factors. Sinusitis is one of the most common medical conditions in Australia. Around 2011 and 2012, 1.9 million Australians have been diagnosed with sinusitis and it can significantly impact one’s quality of life.
There are a number of ways to treat sinusitis. Over the counter medications such as saline nasal sprays and decongestants can provide relief from symptoms. Acupuncture, a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is becoming more and more used by TCM practitioners to treat sinusitis. It aims to target the symptoms as well as root cause of sinusitis. Many patients report relief from sinusitis symptoms and results are apparent after the first session.
Here we’ll be discussing the symptoms of sinusitis and how alternative treatment methods such as acupuncture and Chinese medicines can provide relief from sinusitis symptoms.
The sinuses are a collection of hollow air cavities in the skull located behind your nose, cheekbones and forehead. The sinuses are connected to the nose through small channels and are lined with a soft tissue called mucosa. Experts are still unsure of the main function of the sinuses, but these hollow pockets may help to filter and humidify the air we breathe, and may be involved in vocalising sounds and our sense of smell.
Healthy sinuses are filled with air, but when your sinuses get blocked with fluid, it fosters germ growth which results in an infection. There are a number of causes for blocked sinuses such as colds, allergies, or polyps which are small bumps that grow on the sinus linings.
Sinusitis is a common inflammation of the tissue linings found inside your sinuses. Most people affected by sinusitis complain of difficulty breathing through the nose and accompanying pressure and pain.
Signs and symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Pain and pressure in the area surrounding the nose
- Blocked nose and nasal discharge
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Postnasal drip and cough
- Aching upper teeth
- Halitosis (bad breath)
Sinusitis has several different types and it depends on how long the conditions last. The different types of sinusitis are:
- Acute sinusitis – lasts up to 4 weeks
- Sub-acute sinusitis – lasts up to 12 weeks
- Chronic sinusitis – lasts for more than 12 weeks
- Recurrent sinusitis – multiple diagnosis of sinusitis within a year (3 or more)
Colds are a good example of acute sinusitis. Nasal structural problems, allergies, and other diseases can cause all four sinusitis types.
Seeking Medical Advice
An appointment with a general practitioner should be considered under the following conditions:
- If symptoms don’t improve after 7 to 10 days
- Fever doesn’t go down after a day or two
- Facial pain and pressure is becoming worse
- Recurring episodes of sinusitis
Your GP will examine the inside of your nose and figure out exactly what type of sinusitis you’re dealing with. Medications may be prescribed to help offer pain relief. A saline irrigation and/or nasal decongestant may also be recommended to help improve breathing through the nose. In some cases, nasal corticosteroids or antibiotics are used depending on the type of sinusitis.
Stiff neck, increased swelling, and nose bleed should not be ignored. Contact your GP immediately if any of these conditions develop while you have sinusitis. Further assessment can be done by an ENT specialist (ear, nose, and throat) if the condition doesn’t improve after treatment or is recurrent.
Acupuncture for Sinusitis
For many years, TCM practitioners have incorporated a number of treatment methods such as acupuncture and Chinese herb therapies, to restore the body from ailments in a natural and holistic way. Acupuncture focuses on the principle of meridians (energy channels) that run through the body and nourish all tissues. Different parts of these energy channels can get blocked, which means the tissues don’t receive the nourishment they need, leading to illness and poor state of physical, emotional, and mental health. Acupuncture involves inserting thin, sterile needles to different parts of the body where needed to resolve the blockages, to restore energy flow and optimal health.
TCM treatment of sinusitis commonly combines acupuncture with Chinese herbal medicines to provide relief from the symptoms. The goal is to eliminate all of the factors causing the inflammation and restore nasal function back to normal. According to research, acupuncture may provide relief from sinusitis symptoms like nasal congestion and pain. Controlled trials with patients treated with acupuncture reveals that it may help alleviate sinusitis symptoms, but not to a degree that conventional medications can. However, data is limited so more high-quality randomised trials are needed to accurately evaluate the benefits of using acupuncture for treating sinusitis
Acupuncture may help provide relief for people with sinusitis by:
- Boosting endorphins and neuropeptide Y levels
- Stimulating nerves to release endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, which alters the way the brain and spinal cord process pain
- Promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors to reduce swelling and inflammation
During acupuncture treatment, thin sterile needles are inserted mainly at the face, the arms, and the lower legs to stimulate blood circulation to the sinus cavities and energy flow of the relevant organs and body systems including the adrenal glands, immune system, and the nervous system. Stimulating the immune system will enhance the body’s natural healing capacities, while stimulating the nervous system allows release neurochemical messengers involved in the recovery process. The stimulation of specific acupuncture points also affect areas of the brain resulting in reduced sensitivity to pain experienced in sinusitis patients.
Most sinusitis sufferers experience immediate relief after a session of acupuncture. Benefits include improved taste and smell, decreased nasal congestion, and reduced facial pain. Therefore acupuncture treatment may significantly increase quality of life for sinusitis patients.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Sinusitis
TCM practitioners also incorporate the healing properties of herbs to facilitate recovery in sinusitis patients. It is usually combined with acupuncture. Herbal formulations help alleviate inflammation, and symptoms such as facial pain and nasal congestion. They can also boost your immune system and prevent future occurrences. Before using any herbal medicines, it is essential to consult a TCM practitioner.
Tips for Sinusitis Symptom Relief
Aside from TCM methods and conventional medications, these additional tips will help provide relief from your sinusitis symptoms:
- Use warm compresses. Warm compresses are a simple and easy way to reduce sinusitis symptoms. The heat will soften the sinusitis tissues and loosen up any mucus deposits. This will decongest the nose and allow you to breathe better. Grab a towel and soak it in warm water, apply it to your nose and cheeks and let the heat do its work.
- Flush out your nose. A salt water wash provides temporary relief from sinusitis by thinning out mucus deposits and helps flush it out of your nasal passages. Consult your GP or pharmacist on how to use salt water wash to drain out your nasal passages.
- Use steam. Steam help moisten your sinuses and loosen any mucus stuck inside your nose. You can take advantage of the steam from a hot shower or bath, or use a vaporiser or hot water in a pot.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water will help keep your sinuses moist and soften up sinus tissues. Make sure to get more than 8 glasses of water every day when you have sinusitis.
- Get plenty of rest. Acute sinusitis may turn into chronic sinusitis if you don’t give your body enough time to rest and recover. Get plenty of rest and avoid intense activity when you have sinusitis.
- Avoid allergens and triggers. Dust, pet hair, and smoke can trigger allergies and make your sinusitis worse. Have your house cleaned regularly to reduce level of allergens. This will help curb nasal allergies and prevent your sinusitis from developing into a chronic condition. Smoking or breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke can make symptoms worse.
Find Out More
At Baolin Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Centre, we use a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and dietary advice to help with relief of sinusitis symptoms. Treatment time depends on severity and length of the condition. We generally see reduction in symptoms immediately but sometimes it can take up to 3-4 weeks in severe cases.
For more information regarding acupuncture for relief of sinusitis symptoms please contact us at our Perth or Subiaco clinic (Perth Clinic: 9228 8828; Subiaco Clinic: 9380 4171). Alternatively, you can send us your queries through our online contact page.