In this article, Janneke Vermeulen – physiotherapist, acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and specialist in Western Diving Medicine – discusses the symptoms and effects of ENT disorders, and why more people should consider seeking acupuncture treatment for these conditions. She is the author of Diving Medical Acupuncture.
Do you have a nose that is blocked most of the time or get colds easily? Many people aren’t aware that acupuncture can benefit in case of many ear, nose and throat (ENT) disorders, besides the fact that it is useful in preventing them. Examples include the (recurring) common cold, rhinosinusitis, allergic or non-allergic rhinitis, otitis and tinnitus.
Acupuncture can transform phlegm, reduce swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose, sinuses, Eustachian tube and middle ear. Also, immunity can be improved and accompanying clinical signs and symptoms like tiredness, pain, fever, headache and disturbed emotions can be treated.
The common cold is the most common virus infection and, besides washing hands, acupuncture can contribute to its prevention by improving the Wei Qi (or Defensive Qi), which is a protecting energy level at the surface of the human body. When mismanaged or unresolved, a common cold can easily evolve into rhinosinusitis or an inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media).
Allergic rhinitis can diminish a lot of pleasure. For instance, when everyone is enjoying the lovely weather in spring and summer, people with hay fever are being tormented by sneezing, a runny nose and itchy, red or watery eyes – and would rather stay inside the house. Acupuncture can definitely help to address this annually recurring condition, making outdoor activities possible again. Likewise, other nose allergies can be treated, such as allergies for dust and pets.
Tinnitus can strongly disturb our feeling of well-being and complicate our lives, such as disrupting the mental focus needed while working and causing hearing difficulties. In the night we need silence to recover and having a sound in the ear often results in insomnia and tiredness. In case tinnitus is caused by conditions like stress, exhaustion, bruxism or a cervical spine problem, acupuncture offers possibilities to reduce or even eliminate the sound.
ENT disorders can cause serious problems when diving or flying. Acute otitis media, for instance, is a contra-indication for diving and flying because pressure equalization of the middle ear is not possible and there is risk of ear drum perforation. With a common cold it is strongly recommended not to dive or fly, as you have a stuffy nose and your Eustachian tube may not function well – resulting in equalization difficulties. If there is free air passage in the nose, sinuses, Eustachian tube and middle ear, equalization of the middle ear and sinuses can be done properly.
It may sound like a luxury problem, having ENT disorders when diving – and people are inclined to think ‘Just stop diving!’ – but it means there are ENT problems in general as well, so treatment is needed anyway. Aircrew and travellers who fly frequently often have irritated mucous membranes of the nose and sinuses due to the dry and often cold air-conditioning and many ascents/descents. Besides using salty drops that moisten the mucous membranes, acupuncture can help to calm, de-swell and moisten them.
Acupuncture has a long history as a therapeutic treatment dating back to around 4,000 BC and the earliest acupuncture needles were made of sharpened stone. One of the oldest medical books is the Neijing Suwen — compiled around 100 BC — which is written as a series of dialogues about internal diseases between the Yellow Emperor Huang Di and his physician Qibo. This book states that vital energy (Qi) streams in our body through specific channels called meridians, which have connections with our organs (and each organ is connected to a specific emotion). Qi consists of a Yin and Yang component and these two opposites must be in balance with each other. If they are imbalanced, disease may occur.
A Chinese medical diagnosis is based on an intake (medical history) combined with – among other things – pulse, tongue and facial diagnosis. This determines the selection of acupuncture points that need to be punctured and what food and/or lifestyle advice is required.
Through the ages, the needles have gained a lot of subtlety and nowadays there are sterile and disposable acupuncture needles for single use, made of surgical stainless steel. Safety first… So, when you have an annoying ENT disorder, try acupuncture and experience the benefits yourself!
Janneke Vermeulen. Foreword by William Maclean
An overview of acupuncture treatments for a wide range of health issues that can prevent, complicate or result from diving and other water sports. Applies knowledge from Western Diving Medicine and Chinese medicine to present effective treatment for the most common ear, nose and throat problems associated with diving.