Acupuncture for Sinusitis

Sinusitis is swelling or inflammation of the lining of the sinuses, which are small air-filled cavities behind the forehead and cheek bones. They usually become inflamed due to infection, causing pain and tenderness in the face, headache, a blocked or runny nose, and a high temperature. Acute sinusitis usually develops after a cold or ‘flu’ and should clear up within a few weeks, but in some cases the condition can become chronic, lasting for several months.

Sinusitis and TCM

TCM’s approach to sinusitis is two pronged. First of all it aims to alleviate the symptoms, and then to address the underlying disharmony that is causing the symptoms to arise. Alleviation of the symptoms usually involves expelling the pathogen which is causing the problem—this is an entity analogous to, but not the same as, the virus or bacteria which is thought to cause sinusitis from a western medical perspective. Acupuncture around the area of the nasal passages and sinuses will be particularly helpful. For example, a pressure point just to the side of the nose has been used for millennia for this purpose in China; the Chinese name for this point translates as “welcome fragrance”, evoking its effectiveness at unblocking the nose and restoring the sense of smell.

Once symptomatic relief has been obtained, treatment must proceed to resolve the underlying disharmony which is at the root of the problem—otherwise symptoms will recur. At the initial consultation, with which all courses of TCM treatment begin, the therapist will be able to understand the dynamics of this disharmony and how it is leading to sinus problems. The nature of the disharmony will vary from patient to patient, but a common factor is a weakness of the digestive system which predisposes the retention of body fluids in various forms and at various parts of the body—nasal mucus being one common consequence of such a weakness. Once the nature of the disharmony is identified, treatment with acupuncture and perhaps herbal therapy, dietary modifications and appropriate exercise will be prescribed to resolve it.

Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Sinusitis?

An American study1 found that acupuncture produced better results than conventional treatment with antibiotics, and further that these results lasted longer after treatment finished; it suggested acupuncture should be tried in cases of chronic and recurrent sinusitis. Another study2 which focused on pain relief in sinusitis concluded that acupuncture may be an effective way to reduce pain in this condition.


1 Pothman R & Yeh H. (1982) The effects of treatment with antibiotics, laser and acupuncture upon chronic maxillary sinusitis in children. Am.J.Chin.Med. 10 (1-4) 55-58

2 Lundeberg T. et al (1988) The effects if acupuncture on thermal sensitivity and the clinical perception of pain in patients with sinusitis Ear, Nose and Throat Journal 67,8 565-6, 571-2.


The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.