Find an acupuncturist...

Can acupuncture help with constant stuffy nose?

Q:  Query R.E problems breathing through nose.  For a long time ( many years) I seem to have a stuffy nose only at night time .( I used a Vick stick on and off for years ) any slight cold would cause problems and I would use vick spray . About 3 years ago I had a hysterectomy and a couple of months later I had some sort of virus that lasted approcimately 12 weeks which resulted in bad headaches. Doctors prescribed amitriptyline I was on 50g a day for about 2 years. During this time my problems with blocked nose got worse and affected  me 24 hours a day. I came off the amitriptyline gradually and stopped about 10 months ago .Last winter I was terrible for about 3-4 months and was constantly using Vicks spray. Doctors prescribed beconase and was ok during the summer, but have been having problems since September again . I also have slight post nasal drip
Can acupuncture help?

A:  First of all we need to congratulate your for getting off amitriptyline. Although it is not often regarded as a highly addictive drug we have had a number of patients over the years who have really struggled with the rebound symptoms from trying to come off a long term use. The fact that you have is a tribute to your determination.

 We have been asked questions before about allergic rhinitis and chronic rhinitis, both of which share similarities with your problems, and a typical answer has been:

Can acupuncture help chronic rhinitis?

There is a growing body of evidence that acupuncture treatment may help with a number of forms of rhinitis, as our factsheet shows:
However, we know from our clinical experience that although there are some, indeed many, presentations which seem to respond well to acupuncture treatment, there are a number which have their root in some physical change or restriction in the nasal cavities, or from long-term sinus infections which have become resistant to treatment. If either of these is the case, there may be much more of a struggle involved in trying to reduce the impact of the symptoms.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, however, there are a number of clearly defined patterns involving a compromised defensive system (the Chinese didn't recognise the immune system as we do but certainly had a concept of defensive energy which when compromised generates the symptoms which we associate with rhinitis) and also digestive disorders which can manifest in the fluids of the body being excessive. A skilled practitioner will be looking at the symptoms someone has in the context of their whole system, and trying to ensure that treatment is aimed at the core of the problem, not simply the way in which it manifests.

Amongst the things which the practitioner would consider are also a number of digestive factors. From the Chinese medicine perspective the intake of too much dairy produce can often produce far too much mucus in the body, and it is not uncommon as a pattern. If this is the case, though, there will be a number of diagnostic signs which point clearly in this direction.

You would be well advised to visit a BAcC member local to you for face to face advice. Most are happy to give up a few minutes without charge to assess whether acupuncture treatment is the best thing for you. 

 The importance of this is that from a Chinese medicine perspective it doesn't really matter what the western medical name of a problem is. The symptoms which the patient reports, along with signs which the practitioner can observe, all point to disturbances in the flow, rhythm and balance of the energies of the body, and the skill and art of the practitioner lies in being able to make sense of them within the theoretical framework of Chinese medicine. This can mean that twenty people with the same 'named' condition can find themselves being treated in twenty different ways.

 As far as the advice we gave before is concerned there are probably a number of lifestyle recommendations about diet which a practitioner would make, especially relating to the kinds of food you are eating and also the times of day at which you are eating them. Small adjustments here can have a profound impact, especially when you consider that one of the main two digestive functions in Chinese medicine is also responsible for maintaining fluid flow and can create mucus and phlegm if it is impaired.

 We are surprised that in the earlier answer we did not mention Chinese herbal medicine. Although we routinely offer this as an alternative suggestion for skin problems we have also found that our colleagues who also use herbs are able to address some of the long term rhinitis issues rather well. The quickest way to find a qualified practitioner is to look on the website of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, Most RCHM members are also members of the BAcC, and you can enjoy the best of both forms of treatment.

 As a first step we would advise you to talk to a BAcC member local to you. Most are very happy to give up a small amount of time without charge and can give you a brief face to face assessment which is far more likely to offer you a clear prognosis than we can offer at this remove.


Post a question

If you have any questions about acupuncture, browse our archive or ask an expert.

Ask an expert

BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

Browse the facts