Acupuncture (Auckland) Studio – Sinusitis

acupuncture aucklandAcupuncture Studio are pleased to offer services to people in the Auckland area suffering from sinus pain and issues.

Let us first look at what the sinuses are and how they are treated from a Western Medicine perspective.

The sinuses are air-filled cavities inside the facial bones that open into the nasal cavity (see CT scan below).  There function is to warm and moisten inhaled air.  Sinusitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes (or lining) of one or more of the paranasal sinuses.  Acute sinusitis is common and is often associated with viral or bacterial nasal infections that spread to the sinuses.

When the sinus openings become blocked the cavities fill with fluid, producing pain and a feeling of pressure over the affected sinuses. The pain is often made worse by direct pressure, bending, straining, sneezing or coughing.  Other symptoms of acute sinusitis are frontal headache, blocked nose, nasal discharge which is often yellow or green, fever, fatigue and postnasal drainage.  There may be a feeling of ‘muzziness’ in the head especially in the mornings.

Chronic sinusitis is a sinus problem that usually follows a single attack or repeated attacks of acute sinusitis.  Postnasal or nasal drainage, nasal congestion, pain and altered sense of smell are the most common symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Nasal polyps are associated with chronic sinusitis.

Understanding a CT scan:To understand a sinus CT scan one has to think that your head has been put through a bread slicer and the scan represents one slice. By looking at the slices one can then build up a three dimensional picture as to what is happening. See image above.

White represents bone and grey represents soft tissue. R on the CT scan represents the right side and L represents the left side. This CT scan is a slice through the eyes and maxillary sinuses. The grey at the top represents the brain. The eyes are below on either side. The black under the eyes is air in the maxillary sinuses.

Western Treatment Options

Patients who suffer an acute attack of sinusitis are usually left to see if they get better by themselves.  If not then oral antibiotics, decongestants and analgesics are prescribed. Bed rest, local heat and increased fluids are recommended in controlling the systemic symptoms.

If treatment is unsuccessful the sinus problem can become chronic.  Then treatment consists of a course of antibiotics.  If this is unsuccessful Prednisone and a prolonged antibiotic course are recommended.

Other causes of facial pain need to be excluded.  Common causes may include:

  • Neck and shoulder problems
  • Allergies.  Nasal discharge and nasal blockage is a common allergic symptom
  • Environmental factors such as smoking
  • Nutritional issues.  Some people’s sinus symptoms respond to exclusion diets, particularly dairy exclusion

If there is still no improvement surgery is recommended.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)  Perspective

In terms of Chinese Medicine sinusitis usually corresponds to a combination of Lung Qi deficiency, Spleen Qi deficiency and Damp accumulation that collects in the sinuses.  Alternatively, Fire in the Liver and Gall Bladder may ascend to the head.  An acute flare-up is often a result of a Wind-cold invasion attacking the Lungs (a cold!).

Sinus (both acute and chronic) are commonly seen in TCM clinics as they are often intractable to antibiotic therapy.  The commonest causes of sinusitis are:

  • External Pathogens – Wind Heat (otherwise known as a Common Cold).  This is the most common external cause of sinusitus
  • Liver Qi Stagnation with Stagnant Heat – on going stress and repressed emotions disrupt the circulation of Liver qi.  Prolonged qi stagnation generates Heat which can rise to the sinuses, drying fluids and causing congestion of the mucous membranes.
  • Phlegm Heat – this is caused by overconsumption of Heating and/or Phlegm producing substances, such as rich, greasy foods and alcohol.

Lung and Spleen Qi Deficiency – overwork,  excessive worry or mental activity, irregular eating habits, excessive consumption of cold, raw, sweet, dairy foods or prolonged illness can weaken Spleen (and Lung) qi.  When these are weak, food and fluids are poorly processed and pathological fluids and Damp may accumulate.

Kidney Deficiency – this is usually a factor in chronic conditions and almost always in older people.

Acupuncture (Auckland) Studio: Treatments

This involves a combination of acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) dietary and lifestyle advice.  Acute or short-term patterns generally respond well, chronic patterns are more difficult and require persistence to resolve.

The earlier the treatment is started, the better and faster the result.  Seek treatment promptly upon catching a cold or producing coloured mucus.

Self Help – Neti Pot – Sinus Wash

Sinus congestion, allergies and tendency to infection benefits considerably from daily washing of the sinuses with warm salty water (with good quality sea salt such as Himalayan salt).  This dislodges thick or hidden mucus and any focal infection, and tones the mucous membranes.

Several months of this practice are usually necessary in most chronic cases.  The salt water is best introduced into the nose with a specialised pot such as a neti pot.  The warm salty water should come out through the other nostril.

I stock a supply of good quality ceramic Neti pots in the clinic for your purchase.  These are homemade and handmade in NZ and look great!

If you live or work in the Auckland area, then contact the Acupuncture Auckland studio for a consultation or discussion about ways we can help with sinusitis.

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