Acupuncture for Sinusitis

Acupuncture for Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of special paranasal areas that are associated with conditioning and humidification of inspired air. Most characteristic symptoms of sinusitis are; running nose, build-up of mucus, post-nasal dripping and difficulty in breathing. It can be caused by bacteria, virus, allergens or protozoans etc.

According to latest statistics, sinusitis is the most common chronic illness that affects more than 37 million Americans each year. If left untreated, the clogged mucus ducts may serve as a perfect growth medium for the multiplication of microbes leading to other infections and secondary diseases.

What are some popular treatment modalities that are used for the management of Sinusitis?

Popular therapeutic modalities include allopathic treatments, herbal medications and alternative therapies like acupuncture.

Allopathic treatment: Also known as the western approach includes the use of antibiotics and surgical interventions to address the symptoms of sinusitis. Antibiotics are mainly administered via oral route (or intranasal/ intravenous approach in severe cases). Nebulizer antibiotics are administered to treat local infections while oral and intravenous are used to treat chronic infections. Surgical interventions are usually sought as the last resort. In sinus surgeries, nasal cartilage is resected or realigned to ensure proper drainage of nasal secretions. The recovery period is two to three weeks; however, most patients can be managed by alternative or complementary therapies.

Acupuncture and Sinusitis:

In Acupuncture, specific trigger points are stimulated with the help of very fine needles. Report published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (3) suggested that acupuncture helps in the alleviation of asthma, allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis.

According to another study published in Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science (4), investigators reported 60 subjects with a chronic history of purulent and complicated sinusitis. However, within a few weeks of initiating acupuncture treatment, all patients reported remarkable improvement in the quality of symptoms.

Site and frequency of acupuncture is usually decided by the acupuncture practitioners after diagnosing the primary cause of sinusitis and location of disconnect. For example, most popular patterns of sinusitis that may respond to acupuncture are:

  • Wind-Heat of Lung: This form of sinusitis is usually triggered by changes in the weather (such as temperature, humidity, pollen etc.)
  • Stagnated Heat of Gallbladder: This form of sinusitis is triggered by abrupt changes in emotions.
  • Damp Heat of Stomach/ Spleen: Individuals who consume a lot of spicy and greasy food are more prone to develop this pattern of sinusitis.
  • Deficiency Cold of Lung Qi: Individuals who are suffering from varying severity of chronic illnesses develop this variety (mainly due to immune dysfunction).
  • Deficiency of Spleen: Primarily attributed to excessive fatigue, improper diet and/ or over-thinking

Besides acupuncture, some patients also responds very well to acupressure. It is highly recommended to identify the cause and site of problem before initiating the therapy with the help of physical examination. For example numb, hot, painful or inflamed areas of sinus or parasinus areas nose should be identified to track the associated area of involvement (stomach, spleen, lumbar vertebrae etc.)

Other Popular Alternative Treatments:

Alternative therapies also offer significant help in the management of chronic sinusitis:

  1. Aromatherapy: Application of white rose oil on the inner aspect of nose helps in alleviating sinus congestion. Research published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2) suggested that aromatherapy is exceptionally helpful in managing sinusitis due to hay fever and allergic reaction.
  2. Nasal irrigation is another method that is often added as an adjunctive regimen to manage the symptoms of sinusitis. In addition, nasal irrigation also helps in removing stubborn mucus plugs. You can perform nasal irrigation by slightly warming up the normal saline and irrigating nasal passageways with the help of a dropper.  Nasal irrigation is also helpful at relieving inflammation and swelling of subcutaneous tissue of nose.
  3. Steamed herbs are also used to relieve pain and headaches associated with sinus. Steam allow easy penetration of herbs via olfactory lining epithelium to open clogged nasal passageways. Rosemary and eucalyptus decoctions are most frequently used herbs for steam inhalation. Thyme is also used very frequently because of its antibacterial properties that makes it an ideal anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial remedy for the management of sinusitis.
  4. Herbal drinks are also used to treat sinusitis and resulting complications (like headache, sore-throat) by boiling herbal bulbs and roots to prepare decoctions, tea, and extracts. Most popular herbs that are used to prepare teas include Chen pi, ma huang and xing ri.
  5. Herbal pills are a treatment of choice for the management of refractory sinusitis. It is highly recommended to seek expert medical opinion before initiating herbal treatment for chronic sinusitis.

Regardless of the choice of intervention, it is highly recommended to follow the instructions of a healthcare provider before initiating any herbal or complementary treatment.


  1. Robles, A. T. (2013). Aromatherapy: Take Charge of Your Health With This Eye-Opening Guide On Aromatherapy Oil, Aromatherapy Massage, Aromatherapy Diffuser, Aromatherapy Candles, Aromatherapy Recipes and More. Tru Divine Publishing.
  2. Patil, S. P., Kashetty, M., Patil, S., FK, S., & Patil, N. (2014). Acupuncture in the Management of Orofacial Pain and Related Disorders: A Review. International Journal of Clinical Dental Science, 4(2).
  3. Wang, Y. S. (2010). Treatment of 60 cases of paranasal sinusitis with point-through-point acupuncture method. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, 8(2), 107-108.
  4. Kim, A. R., Choi, J. Y., Kim, J. I., Jung, S. Y., & Choi, S. M. (2011). Acupuncture treatment of a patient with persistent allergic rhinitis complicated by rhinosinusitis and asthma. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011.