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How to Treat Sinusitis With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Qineng Tan, L.Ac., PhD.

 

sinusitis, sinus pressure
Runny nose and sinus pain can be symptoms of sinusitis.

Stuffy nose, nasal congestion, sinus pressure or sinus headache? Lost your sense of smell? These could be sinusitis symptoms. Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that can cause sinus pain, postnasal drip, and difficulty breathing. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve sinus congestion and prevent chronic sinusitis.

The sinuses are four sets of hollow cavities inside the head (forehead, cheeks, and nose) that produce mucus and then allow it to drain through the nasal passageways. This process helps keep bacteria and allergens out of your nose. 

What causes sinusitis? Sinusitis occurs when a sinus infection causes the sinuses to become inflamed and not drain properly. This usually happens because of a viral infection, like the common cold, or a bacterial infection or fungal infection. A long-term candida infection can also contribute to the development of sinusitis.

Sinusitis can seem similar to rhinitis, also known as allergic rhinitis. Rhinitis refers to swelling and inflammation inside the nose, and can also cause symptoms like nasal congestion. The difference is that rhinitis is brought on by an allergic reaction—commonly “hay fever,” or seasonal allergies—instead of an infection, and rhinitis is centered in the nasal passages, rather than the sinuses.

Factors like allergies, asthma, structural blockages, or weakened immune systems can elevate the risk of someone getting sinusitis. When the sinuses are blocked, bacteria and other pathogens can proliferate more easily.

Acute sinusitis usually clears up on its own in about 10 days, although getting acupuncture treatment and herbs can help bring relief sooner.

If sinus pain, stuffed up nose, and yellow-green mucus are still present after two weeks, it may mean that there is an infection that isn’t clearing up.

People are more at risk for developing sinusitis if they have:

About 14% of Americans are diagnosed with chronic sinusitis every year; it’s one of the most common reasons that people will be prescribed antibiotics. However, if the sinusitis is occurring due to a viral infection, antibiotics are not really helpful.

TCM modalities of acupuncture, herbs, and moxibustion can help relieve symptoms of sinusitis and sinus pain, as well as helping to address allergies, asthma, clear up infections, improve immune function, and reduce inflammation.

 

Chronic Sinusitis and Nasal Polyps

Sinus headache and face pain can be signs of nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis.
Sinus headache and face pain can be signs of nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis.

It is fairly common for people with chronic sinusitis to also have nasal polyps. Nasal polyps develop when the nasal tissue becomes swollen and inflamed to such a degree that fluid-filled sacs form. 

If a person also suffers from allergies, then exposure to an allergen can cause the nasal polyps to become inflamed to the point that they block the nasal passages, causing difficulty breathing. When a person can’t breathe through their nose at night, in particular, it can lead to snoring and even sleep apnea.

Chinese herbal formulations that have antibacterial and antifungal properties can help to relieve overproduction of mucus and prevent nasal polyps from coming back.

Acupuncture treatment can also help people breathe easier and sleep better, stop snoring and relieve sleep apnea.

 

Top 5 Sinusitis Symptoms 

Sinusitis typically begins with the usual symptoms of the common cold. Then, instead of clearing up after several days, the symptoms get worse. Symptoms of sinusitis include:

 

  1. Stuffy nose: thick, yellow, or greenish mucus causes a runny nose
  2. Postnasal drip: when mucus drips down the throat. Postnasal drip can be particularly uncomfortable at night, when you’re trying to sleep.
  3. Nasal Congestion: A blocked or stuffy nose makes it hard to breathe through the nasal passages.
  4. Sinus headache or Facial Pain: Pain, tenderness, and pressure around the eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead, especially intensified when bending over.
  5. Loss of smell: Altered sense of smell.

Other signs of sinusitis may Include:

 

Sinusitis Treatment

Medical treatment to help relieve symptoms of sinusitis typically involves:

  • Regularly spraying saline nasal spray (or saltwater) into the nose helps rinse the nasal passages.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays, such as fluticasone and budesonide, prevent and treat swelling in the nasal passages.
  • Over-the-counter decongestants in liquid, tablet, or nasal spray can help relieve nasal congestion. However, nasal decongestants should be used for a limited time to avoid rebound congestion.
  • If sinusitis is allergy-related, allergy medicines can alleviate allergy symptoms.
  • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin may be recommended to manage face pain and sinus headaches.
  • Antibiotics: Since acute sinusitis is often viral, antibiotics, which target bacteria, may not be immediately prescribed. Providers may adopt a “wait and see” approach, reserving antibiotics for severe, worsening, or prolonged cases.

 

For cases of sinusitis linked to allergies, immunotherapy, commonly in the form of allergy shots, may be recommended. Immunotherapy aims to desensitize the immune system to specific allergens, potentially reducing sinusitis symptoms triggered by allergies.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can provide a safe alternative treatment for sinusitis, without the side effects that some of these medications can cause.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Sinusitis?

Acupuncture for sinusitis
Acupuncture points on the head can help relieve sinus headaches and nasal congestion.

TCM has been used for centuries to treat sinus conditions. An acupuncturist will carefully observe each individual patient’s symptoms and experience to determine whether warming or cooling herbs are necessary to help relieve sinus congestion and treat the underlying cause of the problem.

According to TCM theory, sinusitis can result from external factors of wind and cold, which can weaken the lungs, preventing the lung system from doing its job of protecting the body from infections. In TCM, we say that the spleen produces phlegm, and the lungs store phlegm. 

In some cases, it is necessary to nourish the Spleen Qi in order to address underlying causes of mucus buildup and improve immune system function.

Specific acupuncture points can be very helpful for relieving sinus pressure, sinus headaches, and other symptoms of sinusitis. A few examples include Shen Ting (“Spirit Court”), Yin Tang (“Hall of Impression”), Ying Xiang (“Welcome Fragrance”), and Zhanzu.

One study of patients with sinusitis treated with acupuncture showed a 60% reduction in sinus pain, and significantly improved air flow. 

Another study showed that patients who had already had surgery for nasal polyps who received Chinese herbs in addition to conventional medical treatment had better quality of life, with less symptoms of nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, and bad breath.

A review of studies pertaining to TCM treatment for chronic rhinitis concluded that acupuncture is indeed an effective alternative or adjunct treatment for symptomatic improvement.

A study that offered acupuncture treatment and herbal formulations to help relieve nasal polyps found that this method helped prevent the recurrence of polyps.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Sinusitis

Sinusitis, nasal polyps, and rhinitis are common conditions that cause a lot of discomfort for millions of people every year. If you or someone in your family is prone to recurrent infections that cause sinus pain and pressure, it may be time to try alternative medicine to help address the underlying causes of sinus headache and a constant stuffy nose and postnasal drip.





*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 



 






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How to Treat BPPV (Vertigo) With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac. Ph.D.

 

BPPV dizziness vertigo
Vertigo feels like the room is spinning.

Dizzy when lying down? Waking up dizzy? Head spinning sensation when you move from one position to another? These could be BPPV symptoms. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is a common vertigo cause. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative or adjunct BPPV treatment to help relieve positional dizziness.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common causes of vertigo, a condition characterized by a feeling that the room is spinning. 

BPPV is an inner ear disorder that affects the vestibular system, which controls your sense of balance. BPPV causes you to feel dizzy. The words “positional vertigo” in the name refer to the fact that the dizziness happens after you move your head, either by tilting or turning it, or you get dizzy when getting up from laying down.

Unlike some other forms of vertigo, BPPV is considered relatively harmless; hence the word “benign” in the name. However, its sudden and unpredictable nature can be very unsettling, and have a real impact on your daily life.

BPPV occurs when small calcium particles called otoconia, which are normally located in the inner ear, become dislodged and migrate into one of the ear’s semicircular canals. When these particles move with changes in head position, they can disrupt the normal flow of fluid in the canals, sending incorrect signals to the brain about the body’s position. This mismatch between visual and vestibular signals leads to the characteristic symptoms of BPPV.

 

What Causes BPPV? 

dizzy when lying down
Feeling dizzy when lying down or standing up can be a sign of BPPV.

In most cases, doctors do not find a clear BPPV cause when patients see them about recurring dizziness. However, it is possible for certain conditions to possibly cause BPPV. These could include:

Migraine associated vertigo is common, and vice versa; people with BPPV are more likely to experience vestibular migraine, or a migraine headache due to problems with the inner ear. Patients who have BPPV treatment in the form of repositioning, as discussed below, may also be more likely to have migraines afterwards.

 

Top 10 BPPV Symptoms

That dizzy, spinning sensation is the primary, recognizable symptom of vertigo, but when a person has BPPV, there may be other signs, too. These are the most common symptoms of BPPV:

 

  1. Dizziness: Sudden and intense episodes of dizziness, often triggered by changes in head position, such as rolling over in bed or tilting your head back.
  2. Vertigo: A spinning or whirling sensation, as if the room is rotating around you. This sensation is usually brief but can be severe.
  3. Light-headed: feeling faint or dizzy.
  4. Nystagmus: Involuntary, rapid eye movements, typically triggered when changing head position. These eye movements are a hallmark of BPPV and can help doctors diagnose the condition. It may feel like you’re seeing wavy lines or objects around you “jumping” or moving.
  5. Blurred Vision: the inner ear is connected with the eye muscles, so this imbalance can affect vision, and even cause foggy vision, double vision, and/or sensitivity to light.
  6. Imbalance: Difficulty maintaining balance, especially when getting up from a lying or seated position. This can lead to unsteadiness and an increased risk of falling.
  7. Nausea: Some people with BPPV may experience nausea or vomiting, particularly during severe vertigo episodes.
  8. Fatigue: The unpredictability of BPPV attacks and the effort required to maintain balance during episodes can lead to feelings of exhaustion.
  9. Anxiety: BPPV can cause anxiety, as individuals may fear the sudden onset of vertigo and its potential impact on their daily activities.
  10. Tinnitus: Some individuals with BPPV may experience ringing in ear or buzzing in the affected ear, or even hearing loss.

 

BPPV Treatment and Diagnosis

There really are no lab tests that confirm a diagnosis of BPPV. A doctor will usually perform a test called the Dix-Hallpike maneuver, in which you are asked to turn your head and lie down, and then sit up again 20 to 30 seconds later. During this test, the physician will carefully observe for signs of nystagmus, the rapid eye movement that is one of the classic signs of BPPV.

A doctor may perform other tests like an MRI or CT scan to rule out other possible causes of vertigo.

Sometimes, doctors will recommend a wait and see approach, as many times, BPPV symptoms will resolve on their own in a matter of weeks or months.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo treatments can include vestibular suppressant medication. Medications for BPPV aim to provide vertigo treatment that reduces symptoms of dizziness and nausea. 

Benzodiazepines, like Valium, may be prescribed because they can help reduce acute vertigo and the sensations of motion sickness. These medications can be habit-forming and have side effects. They also have to be reduced gradually, because of withdrawal symptoms.

Antihistamines, like Benadryl, may be recommended, as they can also reduce feelings of nausea. 

Anticholinergics are vestibular suppressants that block receptors in the nervous system. They are used to treat many conditions that involve involuntary movement. However, they can cause a lot of side effects and worsen other conditions like prostate problems, irregular heartbeat or rapid heartbeat, glaucoma, dementia, and depression.

None of these medications address the root cause of dizziness. 

Meniere
BPPV is caused by particles in the inner ear.

The preferred treatment for BPPV is usually a canalith repositioning procedure (CRP) can be done with one of a few different maneuvers that doctors can perform to try to move the particles in the inner ear that are causing BPPV. These are often helpful in the short term to relieve vertigo, but often patients do have a recurrence of BPPV symptoms again.

For some people, repositioning is not a good option—if you have problems with your cervical spine, or serious cardiovascular problems, for example.

Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative treatment for BPPV that can relieve dizziness and other vertigo symptoms without any unwanted side effects.

 

Can Acupuncture Help BPPV?

According to TCM theory, phlegm is one of the pathogenic forces that can take hold in the body, along with things like dampness, dryness, etc. Phlegm builds up when fluids in the body are not being transported and moving the way they should; they get caught in an area and become condensed and thick, causing blockages of energy and movement.

The San Jiao, or “triple burner,” is an important concept used in TCM theory; the San Jiao controls the movement of fluids in the body. In cases of vertigo, phlegm and heat become stagnant due to the malfunctioning of the Jiao. This causes phlegm to be pushed upwards in the body.

In TCM, we may diagnose BPPV and other vestibular problems as having their root cause in a buildup of phlegm in the head that is causing a blockage in the inner ear. 

Wind is another pathogenic force that can get into the body and cause problems that seem to come and go. Some cases of dizziness may be due to wind in the head.

Thus, the TCM protocols for BPPV treatment will aim to clear dampness, phlegm, and wind, and get fluids and Qi energy moving again.

Herbs can play an important role in treating vertigo. Chinese herb formulas that warm Yang energy and strengthen the kidneys and spleen can help to clear phlegm.

Use of specific acupoints with acupuncture treatment can help relieve vertigo—sometimes patients feel much less dizziness, even after one treatment. Not only can TCM treatment for BPPV help improve vertigo right away, but regular acupuncture session can help prevent bouts of dizziness from happening.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for BPPV in Los Angeles, Santa Monica

TCM is a great modality for helping to relieve dizziness due to all types of health conditions, including migraines, POTS, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Meniere’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, sinus issues, ear infections, and the side effects of medications. Acupuncture can be an excellent alternative for vertigo if other treatments have not helped. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai at Art of Wellness in West L.A. can help get to the bottom of recurring dizziness, so you can feel steady again.



*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.





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How to Treat POTS With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

POTS dizzy nausea headaches
POTS is most common in girls and women and often starts in adolescence.

Do you often feel shaky, like you’re fainting, or experience dizziness, especially when you’re getting up from sitting down or lying down? Do you feel like you have a rapid heartbeat, or shortness of breath? Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, known as PoTS syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that causes unstable blood pressure when changing positions. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve dizziness and other symptoms of POTS.

Postural tachycardia syndrome (or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) is a chronic disorder related to the autonomic nervous system that causes people to experience dizziness and increased heart rate when they move into an upright position; this is known as orthostatic intolerance.

POTS syndrome is fairly common, affecting up to 3 million people in the U.S. POTS occurs more often in people assigned female at birth, and often first shows up during the teenage years. 

The most common symptom of POTS is feeling light-headed when changing your position from sitting to standing, or when getting up from lying down.

Whenever we have been sitting or lying down for a while, blood pools in the lower parts of the body. When we get up, the autonomic nervous system starts a series of actions to move blood back up into the top half of the body. This involves squeezing blood vessels, and releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine, to make the heart beat faster.

When a person has POTS, more blood tends to pool in the legs, and the nervous system process doesn’t cause the normal, quick response from the blood vessels, so more hormones are released, which can cause the person’s heart rate to increase, and a dizzy, faint feeling.

Medical science has not yet discovered exactly what causes POTS, but there are different characteristics that allow for categorizing these different types of POTS syndrome:

  • Neuropathic POTS – damage to small fiber nerves that control blood vessel constriction in the abdomen and limbs
  • Hyperadrenergic POTS – when a person has elevated levels of norepinephrine
  • Hypovolemic POTS – when a person has unusually low blood levels
  • Secondary POTS – when POTS symptoms are related to another condition that causes neuropathy, such as Lyme disease, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders like Lupus or celiac disease.

While POTS is not rare, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis, because the criteria can be vague, and the symptoms can so often be related to other conditions, or just seem “normal.” 

For many people, POTS is truly debilitating and can have a serious, negative impact on daily life. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for POTS that can help with dizziness, irregular heartbeat, digestive problems, muscle weakness, migraines, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms, all at the same time.

 

Top 10 POTS Symptoms

The primary symptoms of POTS are related to the cardiovascular system: rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. However, there can be many other POTS symptoms.

  1. Irregular heart rate, rapid heart rate, fast heartbeat, chest pain, heart palpitations
  2. Dizziness, especially when standing up or getting up from lying down, feeling faint
  3. Breathing problems: hyperventilating, bronchial asthma, shortness of breath
  4. Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
  5. Muscle weakness, muscle pain, tremor
  6. Skin rash, flushed face, flushing, sweating
  7. Migraine headaches
  8. Cognitive issues, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  9. Trouble sleeping
  10. Frequent urination, nocturia
POTS dizziness
Symptoms of POTS include dizziness, fatigue, and migraines.

Other symptoms of POTS may include: tinnitus (ringing in the ears), blurred vision, red or purple appearance of the legs when standing up, and a “jittery” feeling or general nervousness.

As with many syndromes, different people will experience different combinations of symptoms. While dizziness and rapid heartbeat are the signs most commonly associated with POTS, many people with POTS will also suffer from abdominal pain and gastrointestinal problems, perhaps without realizing there is a correlation.

POTS symptoms may resemble many other conditions, such as:

Because POTS is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, many patients will be offered medications to manage headaches, vertigo, or depression, which may not offer much relief.

 

Medical Treatment for POTS

As there is no definitive cure for POTS, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome treatments typically aim to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Dietary modifications are a fundamental component of POTS management. Adequate daily fluid intake is crucial. A diet that includes plenty of salt helps maintain blood volume, aiding blood flow to vital organs. Patients are typically advised to avoid alcohol and carefully monitor caffeine intake, as these substances can exacerbate symptoms.

Exercise is gradually introduced, often starting in reclined or horizontal positions, with the goal of increasing exercise tolerance over time. Physical therapy helps retrain the autonomic nervous system, enhancing blood circulation.

Compression garments can help reduce blood pooling, and specific postures while sitting or sleeping may alleviate symptoms. Identifying triggers such as prolonged sitting, heat, or certain drugs allows for better symptom control. Regular monitoring of blood pressure and pulse, along with adequate sleep hygiene, aids overall well-being.

While no single pharmacological solution is universally effective, some medications may be prescribed based on individual symptoms. These may help to improve blood volume, aid sodium retention, reduce heart rate, and enhance blood vessel constriction.

While POTS symptoms may intermittently improve with medications and lifestyle modifications, the underlying cause of POTS may persist. Acupuncture and TCM treatment can provide a holistic solution for individuals living with POTS, which may help to address the root causes of this syndrome.

 

Can Acupuncture Help POTS?

acupuncture treatment
Acupuncture treatment can help relieve POTS symptoms.

POTS is a kind of Dysautonomia; this is a general term that describes conditions that involve malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system. This causes people’s bodies to have problems with regulating the sorts of functions that are typically automatic, like the beating of the heart, circulation of blood, breathing, and temperature control. 

Western medicine offers some treatments that can help address individual symptoms of dysautonomia, but it does not have a way of treating the root of the problem. It can be difficult to get proper treatment, because people who suffer from POTS and other kinds of dysautonomia often seem reasonably healthy, and their complaints—dizziness, headaches, mental health problems—seem vague.

Acupuncture and TCM have been used to treat these kinds of problems for centuries. Acupuncture treatment can help provide positive effects on the subtle communications of the nervous system, as well as the heart rate, and physiological symptoms of anxiety. According to TCM theory, several organ systems may be involved and need support: not only the heart, but also the kidneys or spleen.

Studies have shown that acupuncture for dysautonomia can help relieve symptoms like heart palpitations, insomnia, and digestive problems.

A qualified acupuncturist is also well-versed in nutrition and can offer more detailed information regarding dietary and lifestyle changes that can help each individual patient. Your TCM provider will spend time learning more about you, so that they can offer personalized advice.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for POTS in West Los Angeles

TCM and acupuncture can help people with all types of autoimmune disorders, nerve disorders, and conditions involving fatigue and dizziness that may be difficult to solve with conventional methods. Acupuncture works on a deeper, more subtle level to help address complex syndromes. If you are regularly experiencing trouble with feeling light-headed, having unexplained headaches and sleep problems, it may be time to seek a more holistic alternative treatment.



 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Encephalitis With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

encephalitis neck pain stiff
Neck pain or stiffness can be a sign of encephalitis.

Headache, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, short-term memory loss? These could be signs of encephalitis, or inflammation in the brain. Infectious encephalitis can happen due to an infection; autoimmune encephalitis (AIE) is a type of autoimmune disorder. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct treatment for encephalitis recovery.

What is encephalitis? Encephalitis refers to a serious condition in which the tissues of the brain become inflamed. It can happen to anyone, but is more common among children and older people.

The symptoms of encephalitis are sometimes ignored, because headaches, neck pain, and “brain fog” are so common and may not seem that serious at first. However, in combination, these signs should not be taken lightly. Like meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis can cause serious complications if left untreated. Encephalitis needs to be caught early and treated in order for people to make a full recovery.

What causes encephalitis? Brain inflammation can be caused by the body’s immune response to an infection, or due to an autoimmune disorder, in which the body produces antibodies that attack the brain tissues. 

Top 10 Causes of Encephalitis

Viral infections are the primary reason that people develop encephalitis. These could be viruses carried by insects, especially mosquitoes, which are then contracted by humans through bites. Other communicable viral infections that pass from person to person through bodily fluids or close contact can also cause infectious encephalitis.

Infections that can lead to encephalitis include:

  1. Mosquito-borne viruses such as: West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine encephalitis, Western Equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis
  2. Tick-borne viruses
  3. Rabies virus – can be contracted through being bitten by an infected animal
  4. Polio virus
  5. Herpes Simplex, Type 1 and Type 2 (HPV1 and HPV2)
  6. Epstein-Barr virus (mono, mononucleosis)
  7. Varicella Oster virus (chicken pox, shingles)
  8. Measles (rubeola)
  9. German measles (rubella)
  10. Mumps

There have been cases of people developing encephalitis as a complication of a COVID-19 infection.

Some cases of encephalitis can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, or by a parasite. It could also be caused by exposure to some sort of allergen or toxin in the environment.

People with weakened immune systems—for example, due to HIV/AIDs—or who take immunosuppressant medications are at a higher risk for developing encephalitis.

Immunotherapy used to treat certain kinds of cancer, such as melanoma, ovarian cancer or lung cancer, has been shown to cause encephalitis in some cases.

Some cases of autoimmune encephalitis, called Anti-NMDAR encephalitis, appear to be related to a certain kind of tumor called a teteroma. In women and young women, especially, this can be an ovarian tumor that produces the antibodies for NMDAR.

Symptoms of Encephalitis

encephalitis in children
Children can develop encephalitis due to a viral or bacterial infection.

A mild case of encephalitis might only cause some flu-like symptoms that clear up within a few weeks. These types of symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck, neck pain
  • Muscle aches, joint pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue, feeling tired and weak
  • Sensitivity to light

More severe symptoms of encephalitis can affect both cognitive and motor function:

  • Mental confusion, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems, short term memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble with coordination or balance
  • Loss of sensations in parts of the body or face
  • Loss of muscle control in parts of the body or face
  • Problems with speaking or hearing
  • Mood swings, changes in personality

Anti-NMDAR encephalitis (when there may be an ovarian tumor involved, especially) can cause symptoms like pro-domal headache, nausea, and fever, which may then progress to more severe complications, including involuntary movements or tremors, urinary incontinence, rapid heartbeat, and psychiatric symptoms like anxiety, paranoia, or mania.

In severe cases, encephalitis can cause loss of consciousness and even cause a person to go into a coma. It is very important to seek urgent medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

Treatment for Encephalitis

encephalitis brain inflammation
Imaging may show inflammation in the brain.

Blood tests can confirm whether a viral or bacterial infection is causing encephalitis. Imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan may show the inflammation in the brain. A spinal tap may show an imbalance in cerebral fluids, or an EEG may show unusual electrical impulses in the brain.

However, there are times when these tests will not show exactly what is causing the encephalitis. As with many autoimmune disorders, it can be hard to pinpoint a clear diagnosis for autoimmune encephalitis (AIE).

Medical treatment for encephalitis will depend on what type it is determined to be. Mild inflammation will usually be treated with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. Antivirals or antibiotics will be prescribed if a specific infection is found to be the cause. Steroids will often be used to help reduce inflammation. In more serious cases, a person may require breathing assistance or anti-seizure medications.

 In cases where the cause is believed to be an autoimmune response, immunotherapy is used to try to interfere with the antibodies that are attacking the brain tissues. Steroids will be usually used in combination with other treatments. Plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, removes some of these antibodies from the blood. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy introduces healthy antibodies to block the action of the malfunctioning antibodies.

In cases of anti-NMDAR encephalitis where a tumor is present, treatment will include the removal of the tumor in addition to immunotherapy. Patients with this type of encephalitis may also be prescribed antipsychotic drugs to relieve psychiatric symptoms.

Immunotherapy works for some patients, but not all. Many patients will be offered second-line treatments such as monoclonal antibodies or antimetabolites. In some cases, people may seem to recover from encephalitis for a while, and then have a relapse in which the inflammation flares up again.

Most people will need significant time and rehabilitation to help them make a full recovery from encephalitis. Some people will have long-lasting effects, such as memory problems, balance and coordination issues, speech problems, and emotional volatility. 

Many of the pharmaceutical treatments available for encephalitis cause significant side effects and can even lead to more physical, emotional and mental health issues. Fortunately, acupuncture and other TCM modalities offer a way to reduce inflammation in the brain and help relieve encephalitis, as well as helping to offset any side effects from other medical interventions.

Can Acupuncture Help Encephalitis?

Chinese herbs reduce inflammation
Chinese herbs can help reduce inflammation.

With acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we seek to treat the root cause and the various symptoms and complications of each condition according to recognizable patterns. This allows us to effectively treat some conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, and inflammatory conditions that may not readily respond to conventional medicine. 

In the TCM view, inflammation occurs because there is too much heat in the body. Yang energy provides the “fire” we need to keep the body warm and energetic. But, if there is an imbalance, and too much heat, this leads to conditions like fever, infections, and inflammation. So, we see pathogenic internal heat as contributing to encephalitis, in addition to outside pathogens like viruses or bacteria. To clear heat that is trapped or stagnant in the body, we will use specific herbs and cooling foods, along with acupuncture treatment and lifestyle changes to reduce physical and mental stress. TCM herbs can also be highly effective against bacterial and viral infections.

The motor control and cognitive problems that can result from encephalitis occur because the inflammation in the brain is affecting the functioning of the central nervous system. With acupuncture, we can help to reestablish connections and neural pathways.

Autoimmune disorders are still not well understood by Western medicine, but with acupuncture we can help to balance and regulate the immune system, so that it is not being inappropriately triggered. This is why acupuncture works well as an adjunct treatment for encephalitis and many other autoimmune disorders.

Acupuncture Near Me for Encephalitis in Los Angeles and West Los Angeles

It can be very difficult when you or someone you love is facing a serious illness and a long, difficult recovery. TCM offers a healthcare option that treats each person in a highly individualized and caring way. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping people gain back their strength and mobility after suffering from conditions like encephalitis, meningitis, Lyme disease, Guillain Barré Syndrome, Myasthenia Gravisand many others.




*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How to Treat Occipital Neuralgia With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

occipital neuralgia migraine neck pain back of head
Occipital Neuralgia causes neck pain and back of head pain.

Throbbing headache and back of neck pain? Occipital Neuralgia, sometimes called “occipital migraine,” is a kind of chronic headache that causes stabbing neck pain and headache back of head. Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to help ease occipital nerve pain.

Occipital headache causes are usually due to compression of the occipital nerves, which start at the top of the spine where the neck is joined to the head and then run up into the scalp. A pinched nerve in the neck area, or tight muscles in the neck can lead to occipital pain, like a headache at base of skull.

Neck pain and back of head pain from an occipital migraine is often described as feeling like an electric shock or “zap,” or a sharp, shooting pain in the back of the head. The sensation may come on suddenly and last for only a few seconds, or it can go on throbbing for hours.

Occipital neuralgia pain is similar to that of Trigeminal Neuralgia, in which the intense nerve pain is on one side of the face, rather than the back part of the head. Occipital pain can also resemble that of chronic migraines and other kinds of headache disorders.

Occipital Neuralgia pain areas can include:

  1. Pain starts in the back of the neck and spreads upwards
  2. Back of head pain, behind the ears
  3. Pain on one side of the head
  4. Scalp pain, scalp tender to the touch
  5. Pain in the forehead
  6. Pain behind the eyes
  7. Eyes are sensitive to light

Occipital neuralgia pain can make the scalp feel so sensitive that even shampooing your hair or resting your head on a pillow feels unbearable. It can also feel like a burning sensation, or simply an aching neck.

Acupuncture can be used as an alternative or adjunct therapy for occipital neuralgia to bring headache and neck pain relief.

 

What Causes Occipital Neuralgia?

occipital neuralgia back of head pain migraine
Occipital headaches often start at the base of the skull and move upwards

Occipital neuralgia occurs when the occipital nerves in the back of the head and neck are irritated or injured. There can be many different kinds of factors that trigger occipital neuralgia, such as:

  • Pinched nerve in the neck
  • Tension or tight muscles in the neck cause compression
  • Compression of the nerves due to osteoarthritis in the spine, degenerative disc disease, or a herniated disk
  • Trauma to the back of the head or the neck
  • Tumor or other type of lesion in neck compresses the nerves
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Vasculitis (inflamed blood vessels)

Holding the head and neck in a position where it is tilted forward and down, such as when reading or looking at a screen for long periods of time can be associated with occipital neuralgia. 

Often, though, the exact cause of the occipital pain in the head and neck is not discovered.

There is no clear test used to diagnose occipital neuralgia. The symptoms of occipital nerve pain are similar to other types of migraine headaches, and it is possible for a person to have both migraines and occipital neuralgia, so it can be challenging for doctors to determine exactly what is going on.

Conventional Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

One of the ways that medical doctors will try to confirm a diagnosis of Occipital Neuralgia is by injecting a combination of anesthetic and steroids (occipital nerve block) into the affected area, to see if it deadens the pain. Botox injections can also be used to produce this effect. The hope is that the irritated nerve will heal over time.

If neck tension seems to be the issue, muscle relaxants may be prescribed. Massage therapy can sometimes be helpful in these cases.

Occipital neuralgia treatment at home might involve alternating ice packs and heating pads to help relieve pain at the back of the neck. Exercises like yoga may also be helpful for relieving neck tension that triggers the nerve pain.

If none of these treatments provides relief, then surgical options might include occipital nerve stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted to block nerve signals.

Acupuncture and TCM can be sought as an alternative way to deal with occipital neuralgia, and many other types of nerve pain.

Can Acupuncture Help Occipital Neuralgia?

acupuncture for neck pain headaches and migraine
Acupuncture can help relieve neck pain, headaches, migraines, and nerve pain.

From the TCM point of view, pain conditions that come and go, or cause periodic pain and stiffness, fall under a category called “Bi Syndromes.” “Bi” means “obstruction.” Bi Syndromes occur when an external pathogenic force like wind, cold, or dampness gets into an area of the body and causes blockages in the flow of Qi. Then, the muscles and joints may be tender, swollen, or sore, or numb and tingling, or have limited range of movement. Most types of arthritis, for example, are Bi Syndromes, according to TCM theory.

Occipital neuralgia is considered a Bi Syndrome, where tightness in the neck and base of the skull causes the stabbing nerve pain to flare up. The goals of acupuncture treatment for occipital headache and neck pain are to reduce tension, stress, and inflammation, to clear blockages in the Qi at the organ system level, and to provide natural analgesic relief from nerve pain signals.

One case study of a patient who had been suffering from occipital headaches for over a year found that her pain resolved after five acupuncture treatments.

A systematic review of evidence related to TCM treatment for occipital neuralgia in China showed that acupuncture was effective both as an alternative to medical treatment, and as an adjunct to medicine.

Acupuncture Near Me for Occipital Neuralgia in Los Angeles

At Art of Wellness Acupuncture near Santa Monica and Brentwood, we have over 30 years of experience helping people heal from all kinds of neurological conditions and nerve pain. Conditions related to nerve compression, such as Carpal Tunnel syndrome (wrist pain), Morton’s Neuroma (ball of foot pain), Sciatica (hip pain), Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain), and even dental pain (toothaches) can all be relieved with acupuncture and TCM treatment. If you or someone you know is suffering with recurring headaches, migraines, or neck pain, please consider giving acupuncture a try.



*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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