Sinusitis and acupuncture

Acute sinusitis is defined as inflammation of the nose and sinuses characterised by the existence, of two or more of the following symptoms: blockage/congestion; discharge (anterior or posterior nasal drip); facial pain or pressure; and reduced or loss of smell. Other symptoms can include toothache, tenderness, swelling, malaise and fever.

Sinusitis is considered to be chronic if it lasts for more than 12 weeks, and is associated with similar symptoms. Chronic sinusitis usually develops from acute sinusitis and can be due to poor drainage of the affected sinus, inflammatory changes to the lining of the sinus that result from infection, and a flare-up of infection from time to time as a result of these changes. Sometimes other factors may cause, or contribute, to the development of chronic sinusitis. For example, a persisting allergy that causes inflammation in a sinus, and swelling or blockage of the drainage channel.

There has been scientific research into the benefits of acupuncture for sinusitis and some of it has shown that acupuncture can help. A randomised controlled trial was carried out in 2009 to look at the effectiveness of acupuncture according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The results were published in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy. A group of 24 patients with a history of nasal congestion were asked to score the severity of their nasal congestion on a visual analogue scale (VAS). Nasal airflow (NAF) was measured by using active anterior rhinomanometry. VAS and NAF were scored and measured before and 15 and 30 minutes after acupuncture. The researchers found that acupuncture showed highly significant improvements in both VAS and NAF.

How acupuncture can help

Acupuncture may help to relieve pain and congestion in people with sinusitis by

  • increasing endorphins and neuropeptide levels
  • stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord
  • reducing inflammation
  • enhancing natural killer cell activities
  • increasing local microcirculation which aids dispersal of swelling.

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress

More information on the research can be found in the British Acupuncture Council web page, including a list of the research articles.

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