Monday, October 20, 2014

Chiropractic Approach to Treating Chronic Sinusitis

"What the heck is chronic sinusitis, anyway?"  Chronic sinusitis is a fancy way to say that your sinuses are inflamed and/or irritated and not draining properly for a period of 8 weeks or longer.  "Sinuses?" Your sinuses consist of eight hollow spaces in the bones of the forehead, cheeks and temples, four on each side of your head.  The function of these spaces is to filter the air you breathe and help ensure that the air that gets to your lungs is free of dust, dirt, and pollutants while being warm and moist.  It accomplishes this by being covered with a layer of sticky mucus that catches dust particles as well as environmental pollutants and bacteria that are floating in the air.  
There are any number of things that can cause the mucosa lining the sinuses to become irritated and inflamed. Seasonal allergies, mold sensitivity, DIET, nasal polyps, deviated septum, facial trauma, and upper respiratory infection. Often one this happens like an upper respiratory infection which will knock your immune system down, leaving you more vulnerable to allergens such as mold and pollen. Then you start to experience negative inflammatory effects from foods that ordinarily cause you problems and the cycle is off and running.  

There are many possible symptoms of sinusitis and one must have at least two of the following for a physician to make a diagnosis of sinusitis and symptoms must be present for a minimum of eight weeks before it is a chronic problem.  The list is as follows:

  • Drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
  • Nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Ear pain
  • Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
  • Cough, which may be worse at night
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Fatigue or irritability
  • Nausea
"OK, that's all great, I've now self diagnosed myself with chronic sinusitis, what in the world is a chiropractor going to do about it for me?"  Good question!  First things first, your chiropractor is going to do (assuming they deal with sinus issues in their office) is take a thorough history about the problem to get to the root cause whether it's diet, seasonal allergy, infection, etc.  They're also going to look in your nose, throat, and eyes to check for inflammation and signs of infection and possibly refer your for antibiotic treatment for active acute infection.  In many cases however, suffers of chronic sinusitis will receive adjustments to their neck and upper back to increase the motion in the joints and decrease inflammation in the surrounding muscles which in turn will enable increased lymphatic drainage from the sinuses, additionally lymphatic drainage massage may to performed to further help drain lymph fluid from the sinuses.  Often this will be enough to promote the body to get itself back on track, but occasionally further treatment is necessary.  One further treatment is called a Nasal Specific therapy.  
Nasal Specific therapy involves gently inserting a rubber finger cot (basically a tiny balloon) into the nasal meatus (a small space in the sinus that leads to the sinus cavities).  This balloon, once inserted into the meatus is quickly inflated and immediately deflated to promote increased mucus drainage and increased airflow through a decrease in inflammation and more open airways.  This procedure is done in each of the six nasal meati (3 in each nostril).  Significant reduction in symptoms is typically seen within one to three treatments and maximum benefit within two to five treatments over a 2 week period. Treatments may need to be repeated every 6 months or so as seasons change and allergies return. 

Often it will be necessary to make dietary changes to decrease your overall systemic inflammation to help prevent the problem from returning.  These changes may include removing dairy, wheat, and processed foods from your diet, but that is a topic for another day and another blog.

 For more information about Chronic Sinusitis and the treatment options available please contact Active Life Chiropractic and Rehab.

Dr. Rachel Kohn, DC is a chiropractor with Active Life Chiropractic and Rehab, LLC. She graduated from the University of Western States in 2013 and is working everyday to improve the health of her community.  Questions for Dr. Kohn?