Hi, I’m Dean, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and a yoga therapist in Auckland, New Zealand. Today, I will talk about sinusitis and sinus headaches. In this blog post, we’ll explore acupuncture, Traditional Chinese medicine, and yoga. It is important to understand acupuncture is only one external therapy in the system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The good news is that if the problem is simple, it is easy to fix with diet, behaviour, and self-massage on pressure points. If the problem is chronic and complicated, we can fix it with diet, behaviour and external therapies like acupuncture, massage and moxibustion, and herbal medicine. By understanding the basic underlying principles of eastern medicine, we can adjust our behaviour and diet adoringly and pick the correct treatment strategy. It will not only help sinusitis and headaches but also prevent them.
Table of Contents
Symptoms of Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches are often mistaken for migraines or tension headaches, but there are specific symptoms that can help to distinguish them. These symptoms include:
- Pressure or pain in the forehead, temples, cheeks, or around the eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Facial swelling
- Loss of smell or taste
Causes of Sinus Headaches: Western Medicine
In Western medicine, sinus headaches are caused by inflammation and congestion in the sinus cavities. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
Infections: Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can cause inflammation and congestion in the sinus cavities, leading to sinus headaches. Sinus infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi.
Allergies: Allergic reactions can cause inflammation and congestion in the sinus cavities, leading to sinus headaches. Common allergens include pollen, mould, dust, and pet dander.
Environmental irritants: Exposure to environmental irritants, such as pollution or smoke, can cause inflammation and congestion in the sinus cavities, leading to sinus headaches.
Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menstruation, can cause inflammation and congestion in the sinus cavities, leading to sinus headaches.
Changes in weather or barometric pressure: Changes in weather or barometric pressure can cause inflammation and congestion in the sinus cavities, leading to sinus headaches.
Causes of Sinus Headaches: Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sinus headaches are attributed to an imbalance within the body’s energy, encompassing Qi, Yin & Yang, the six qis of nature, and the seven emotions. The specific cause of sinus headaches within TCM can differ based on an individual’s unique constitution, environmental influences, symptoms, emotions, and the underlying energy imbalances present within their body.
It is essential to understand in all eastern medicine systems there is an individual constitution. It is important because diet, lifestyle and treatment is based on constitution there Is no one size fits all in eastern medicine. In Chinese medicine the constitution is yin and yang or the five elements wood, fire, earth, metal and water. In ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine it is the three doshas or humors, vata (wind) this relates to qi, pitta (fire) this relates to yang, earth+water (kapha) this relates to yin. I like to use the ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine constitution framework because it is organized, easy to understand and my brain just works that way plus they 100% correspond to yin, yang and qi. Here is a quiz to find your individual constitution
Qi, Yin, Yang and Sinus Headaches
Qi and Sinus Headaches – Pronounced “chee,” Qi is the energy that permeates every aspect of our being. It forms the foundation for the function and well-being of every system and organ within the body. Balanced Qi equals health, vitality and wellbeing, while imbalances lead to illness. Sinus headaches can be attributed to excessive, deficient, or unbalanced Qi, sometimes involving a combination of all three.
Qi deficiency can lead to mild headaches, fatigue, and forgetfulness, while excessive Qi can cause intense headaches. Qi has eight functions, including opening, closing, raising, lowering, entering, exiting, gathering, and dispersing. In the context of sinus headaches, there is often an overemphasis on the raising, gathering, and closing functions of Qi. The qi is often stuck up in the head. The key lies in harmonizing these functions to ensure a balance. Acupuncture is amazing at working with the qi in the body and the eight functions of qi.
Yin and Sinus Headaches: Yin is associated with qualities such as moisture, coolness, and substance such as the fluids, muscle, and bones. “A Yin-related imbalance in sinus headaches may cause excess fluid, congestion, and phlegm in the sinuses. This can lead to a heavy head, thick nasal discharge, and fullness. Treating Yin imbalances involves promoting fluid drainage, reducing dampness, and restoring fluid balance.
Yang and Sinus Headaches: Yang signifies warmth, activity, and energy. For sinus headaches, a Yang imbalance can lead to excessive heat or inflammation in the sinuses, resulting in redness, yellow phlegm, and irritability. Addressing Yang imbalances involves reducing heat, improving circulation, and soothing inflammation. Herbs, such as mint, ge gen and jing jie sui can be helpful.
Six Qis of nature & Sinus Headaches
The Role of Six Qis of Nature in Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches often arise from the interplay between our individual constitution and the environment’s energy—the 6 Qis of nature. The elemental energies of nature are Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness, Dryness, and Summer Heat. They can cause sinus headaches.
The most common environmental causes of sinus headaches and sinusitis are wind, cold dampness, heat, and dryness. This is very common where I live in New Zealand. Living on an island, we experience extreme weather, often going through four seasons in one day. It is very damp, humid, and windy. Here are three examples, I commonly see in the clinic.
- Acute – A typical cold or flu is referred to as “shan han” or “zhong feng” in Chinese medicine, meaning being struck by wind or cold. Symptoms include aversion to wind and cold, possibly with chills and fever. Blocked nose, headache, and pain in the nape of the neck are common. Sometimes congestion and headaches persist, turning into chronic long-term problems. To address this, a treatment method that opens and disperses is needed. Diet-wise, consuming more warm, acrid, and pungent flavours like ginger and spring onions is recommended. Behavior-wise, staying warm and wearing a scarf to keep the neck warm, practicing yoga, self-massaging pressure points, and using herbal medicine such as the Gui Zhi Tang formula can help.
- Chronic – Individuals with a constitution of Kapha (yin) or a combination of Kapha/Pitta or Kapha/Vata often experience chronic sinus issues. Kapha, being yin, relates to dampness. An imbalance can lead to congestion and heaviness. Physically, it’s easy to gain weight and difficult to lose it. Digestive problems like slow digestion, bloating, indigestion, and acid reflux are common. Headaches feel dull and heavy, and the body and mind feel foggy and dull. These individuals may try various treatments like saline rinses or antibiotics, but the results vary. Chronic Yin cases develop slowly and are more complicated to fix. Addressing dampness is crucial. The diet should avoid greasy, excessively sweet, and cold-natured foods. Taking care of digestion is vital. Lifestyle and behaviour adjustments are also important.
- Moving to Different Climates – I’ve encountered many people in the clinic who have moved to New Zealand and developed sinusitis and sinus headaches due to the change in the energy of nature and the dampness and humidity of the environment. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for sinusitis and headaches; the ideal environment depends on one’s constitution and imbalances. Sometimes humid environments help counteract dryness, while drier environments are beneficial for excessive dampness.
Seven Emotions & Sinus Headaches
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, emotions play a vital role in the harmony of our Qi, the vital life force. Let’s look at the impact of each emotion on Qi and its direction:
- Elation: Excessive elation scatters Qi, causing it to disperse rapidly. This disrupts the normal flow of energy and potentially contribute to imbalances, including sinus-related discomfort.
- Anger: Intense anger can cause Qi to rise rapidly and erratically, affecting the head region. It leads to heightened tension and contribute to sinus headache symptoms.
- Worry: Prolonged worry knots Qi, obstructing its smooth flow. This stagnation may manifest as congested sinuses and discomfort.
- Overthinking: Overthinking tangles Qi, obstructing its natural movement. Such entanglement can disrupt the harmony of the body, potentially contributing to sinus-related issues.
- Grief: Deep grief can weaken Qi, affecting its ability to circulate properly. This weakened Qi might influence the sinus area and contribute to discomfort.
- Fear: Fear can lead to a sinking of Qi, impacting the balance and flow of energy. This may contribute to sinus headaches through disrupted energy movement.
- Fright: Sudden fright can cause a rapid rise of Qi, potentially affecting the sinuses and triggering headache symptoms.
Having balanced emotions is crucial for overall well-being, including sinus health. Emotionally balanced practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and stress management help maintain the smooth flow of Qi, preventing disturbances that could lead to sinus-related discomfort. By nurturing emotional balance by reducing negative emotions and developing positive emotions and balance we preserve the harmony of Qi, contributing to a healthier and more vibrant life.
Treatment of Sinus Headaches with Acupuncture
In general, I create personalized plans that combine Traditional Chinese medicine and yoga to alleviate sinus headaches. Unlike relying solely on acupuncture or leaving needles in place for extended periods, I adopt a more dynamic approach. By incorporating various elements of Eastern medicine, I’ve found a more potent and effective method for treating sinus headaches. Here is an example of what to expect.
Personalized Assessment: We begin by discussing your specific symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle factors. This detailed conversation helps me understand your unique situation and design a plan tailored to your needs.
Acupuncture: Using the principles of Traditional Chinese medicine, I target specific acupuncture points related to sinus health. By stimulating these points, we aim to restore balance in the body, promoting natural healing and alleviating sinus headache symptoms.
Complementary Techniques: In addition to acupuncture, I incorporate complementary techniques such as tuina massage or myofascial release. These gentle yet effective methods help release tension in the sinus area, improve blood circulation, and encourage overall relaxation.
Extra Support if Needed: Depending on your individual needs, we may explore additional techniques like cupping or moxibustion. These supplementary approaches can provide enhanced pain relief and contribute to the healing process.
Self-Care Yoga and Massage: I guide you through simple yoga exercises and self-massage techniques that you can easily practice at home. These practices are designed to support your sinus health by strengthening and relaxing the muscles around the sinus area, aiding both in the recovery from sinus headaches and their prevention.
Herbal Healing: Traditional Chinese herbs have a rich history of promoting healing and well-being. I may recommend herbal remedies specifically tailored to your sinus condition. These natural solutions can work in harmony with other treatments to expedite your recovery and provide relief from sinus discomfort.
Diet and Lifestyle: Making simple adjustments to your diet and lifestyle can have a significant impact on managing sinus headaches. I’ll provide you with guidance on foods to include and avoid, as well as lifestyle habits that can contribute to sinus health and reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
By combining acupuncture, yoga, herbal remedies, and other techniques, my goal is to provide you with a comprehensive and practical approach to relieving sinus headaches, enhancing your overall well-being, and helping you regain control over your health.
Research on Acupuncture for Sinus Headaches
Although there is a significant amount of research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for tension headaches, there is limited research specifically on acupuncture for sinus headaches. However, one study on acupuncture for allergic rhinitis, which often causes symptoms such as headaches, nasal congestion, runny nose, and pressure in the head, found that there is evidence of efficacy and effectiveness in using acupuncture to treat this condition. The study also reported an improvement in the quality of life for those who received acupuncture treatment. This research suggests that acupuncture may be a viable treatment option for individuals with sinus headaches caused by allergic rhinitis.
Therapies That Can Assist Acupuncture to Treat Sinusitis
Cupping: A therapy that uses suction cups on the skin to improve circulation of Qi and blood in the nasal and sinus area, and relieve pain and congestion.
Moxibustion: A therapy that uses heat to stimulate acupuncture points, helping to warm the channels, expel pathogenic factors, and improve the immunity of the respiratory system.
Herbal medicine: Herbs are used to clear away pathogenic factors, relieve inflammation, balance energy and clear away blockages causing pain. Some commonly used herbs gui zhi, ge gen, bohe, chuan xiong
Tuina massage: A therapy that uses various massage techniques such as acupressure, to stimulate acupuncture points and energy channels (meridians) to promote healing.
Qigong: A traditional Chinese practice that combines movement, breathing, and meditation to improve overall health. For headaches, it is effective for getting the suck energy out of the head.
Yoga therapy: Yoga can help improve breathing, promote relaxation and relieve stress which can aggravate sinus headaches. The practice of neti can flush out the sinuses and the pranayama nadi shodhana can help clear the sinuses.
Yoga for beginners: Yoga for beginners can be a great way to improve overall health and well-being, which can help to relieve and prevent sinus headaches.
It is important to note that these therapies can be used in conjunction with acupuncture or on their own. It is also important to consult with a qualified practitioner to determine what will work best for you.
Acupuncture and Pressure Points for Sinus Relief
- Yin Tang: A good pressure point for headaches, heavy head, insomnia, stress, anxiety
- Zan Zhi: Good pressure point for headaches, pressure around the eyes, blurry vision
- Tai Yang: Good pressure point for headaches and eye pain
- Jing Ming: Good pressure point for sinus pain and congestion
- Ying Xiang: Good point for blocked nose, runny nose and sinus congestion
Tips for Prevention of Sinus headaches and Home Remedies
Preventing Sinus Headaches and Home Remedies
Diet: Maintaining a Balanced Diet: Taking care of your digestion plays a crucial role in preventing sinus headaches. If you’re experiencing sinus headaches along with digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, or acid reflux, addressing your digestion is essential. Avoid consuming excessively greasy or cold natured foods and drinks, like fridge-cold or ice-cold beverages, raw vegetables, and excessive raw salads. Opt for cooked foods instead, as excessively cold items can weaken your digestive fire and potentially lead to dampness and phlegm buildup, contributing to congestion and heaviness. Exploring your Ayurvedic constitution and aligning your diet with both your constitution and the seasonal changes can be beneficial.
Stay Ahead of Triggers: Recognize and avoid potential triggers for your sinus headaches, whether it’s specific foods, stress, sudden weather changes, or environments that are too cold, damp, or hot. By understanding this you can adjust your lifestyle and diet accordingly.
Clear the Pathways: Keep your nasal passages free and clear by incorporating the use of a neti pot, a simple yet effective method for sinus hygiene.
Rest and Recharge: Prioritize adequate sleep and establish a consistent sleep schedule to support your body’s natural healing processes.
Soothe Stress: Manage stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises, fostering a sense of calm and balance.
Move and exercise: Engage in regular exercise to enhance circulation and overall health, contributing to your body’s ability to maintain wellness.
Yoga at Home: Cultivate a regular home yoga practice, tailored to your needs, to ease muscle tension, enhance energy flow, and promote sinus relief.
Self-massage and Acupressure: Explore self-massage and acupressure techniques designed to alleviate sinus headaches, offering comfort and relief at your fingertips.
By incorporating these practices into your routine, you can take proactive steps to prevent sinus headaches and embrace natural remedies for relief. Remember, small changes can lead to significant improvements in your well-being.
In conclusion, acupuncture is a highly effective treatment for sinus headaches. It can help to unblock nasal passages and promote sinus drainage, providing relief from the pain and discomfort associated with sinus headaches.
When combined with other therapies such as herbal medicine, cupping, massage, and yoga therapy, the results can be even more powerful. Herbal medicine can provide additional support to the body’s healing process, while cupping and massage can help to release tension in the head, face, and neck. Yoga therapy can also be beneficial in helping to open up the sinus passages and relieve pressure.
If you’re struggling with sinus headaches and are looking for a natural and effective solution, I highly recommend giving acupuncture a try. I am a licensed acupuncturist and yoga therapist at Dean Wickenden Acupuncture and Yoga, located in Albany, North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand. You can book an appointment online or contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t let sinus headaches control your life, take the first step towards finding relief and book your appointment today.