Many patients come to me with “Sinus Headaches” double-underlined and highlighted in their patient intake. Sinus Headaches don’t always come from actually having a sinus infection. For many people, their headaches are due to allergies, major shifts in barometric pressure, or actual structural problems in their sinus cavities that make it difficult for them to physically drain.
Seasonal allergies effect more than half the US population and accounts for 4 million work days lost per year at a cost of almost 8 billion dollars annually. It makes sense that sinus headaches are one of the most common symptoms. Most allergens are airborne and when we inhale through our nose, all those little irritating particles enter our sinuses. Our eyes water, we sneeze, and our noses fill with gunk causing pressure build up and pain.
Solving that problem is two-fold. We need to open up the sinuses so they can drain, and strengthen the body’s resistance to whatever the particular allergen is. Acupuncture and herbs are almost always necessary. It can also be really helpful to come in for treatment about two months before your particular “allergy season” begins. At that point, we have time to strengthen your immune system so that when the blooms come, you won’t suffer as much. It is harder to back track than prevent in the first place.
We are half-way through August here in the Bay Area (not that you’d know… I’ve got a wool hat on right now), and things are going to start blooming. Privet trees, now. Chinese Elm, now through September. Weeds are starting to pick up. Goosefoot, pigweed, amaranth, and Russian thistle are flowering. Also, given the moisture and lack of warmth this spring and summer, mold counts are pretty high as well. So if you’re starting to feel your sinuses whine at you, give me a buzz.
In cases of shifts in the barometric pressure causing pain, it is important to look at the overall health of your constitution. In Chinese Medicine, phlegm is exactly that, phlegm. Damp, sticky, icky, and really hard to get rid of. We think of the accumulation of phlegm as stemming from a type of constitution that is susceptible to its build up. If you are a person who gets stuffy after a night of drinking pizza and beer, you are one of these people. If there is going to be a big shift in the weather, or you live in a damp climate (humid, heavy fog, you live in a lower level apartment or sleep in the basement of a house), you need to be careful of your diet. Greasy foods, alcohol, cheese, fried things, spicy fried things, ice cream… all of these can wreak havoc on your body’s ability to break down phlegm. If you have too much of it and the weather shifts to cold and chilly really fast, you could be in for a world of hurt with your sinuses.
If you find yourself there, a few acupuncture treatments focused on opening up your head and a week or two of herbs should help correct the problem and help strengthen your body against the next wave of pizza and fog.
The person whose sinsuses didn’t come out just right will have to be cautious of their diet all their life. They will also need to be hyper-vigilant about taking care of themselves the moment they get a tickle in their noses. A neti-pot is a critical investment for this type of person. Please see my entry below “Smart Wintertime Health Care” for details on how to use a neti-pot. It may feel funny at first, but if you stick with it, you will find that you have less trouble, less often.
If your sinus headaches come from a sinus infection, herbs are used that are anti-viral and anti-bacterial in nature. Caught early enough, most patients are able to avoid having to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Antibiotics, although critical when necessary, are not a lifestyle choice and have long term ramifications if you have to take them all the time.
If this post strikes a chord with you, give me a buzz. I’m more than happy to talk to you about your health and be helpful where I can! 510-684-6659.
Have a healthy day!