Sinuses

Published 12/21/2013. Last updated 1/11/2014.

For many years I had a wide variety of gradually worsening allergies and nasal problems –  constant stuffiness, frequent sinus infections, allergic rhinitis, and nasal polyps that made it difficult to take a full breath and needed to be surgically removed through my nose – twice.
I often felt like large bears had taken to sleeping behind my cheekbones, causing a sharp ache in my eye teeth, sensitivity to light, a tenderness in the bridge of my nose that made wearing glasses painful and such swollen nasal and sinus tissue I couldn’t ever blow my nose. I also had unpleasant reactions to all the decongestants I was given and most antihistamines too. I remember lying on the couch after taking a prescription pill containing both a decongestant and antihistamine, my sinuses so dried up I could hardly breathe and my heart beating so rapidly I thought I was going to die but was unable to lift my head or get up to call for help.

During this time, I regarded the sinuses as diabolical areas in the head existing for no purpose other than to cause much misery.
I’ve since learned our sinuses are necessary: Along with warming and moisturizing the air on its way to our lungs, they allow us to balance our big-brained heads on our relatively meager necks so we can walk upright on two feet. These empty spaces in our skulls lighten the weight of our heavy heads so we’re not like the rhinoceros, whose head is so weighty the animal often keeps it resting on the ground.

After that second nasal polyp surgery, I told my ENT doc that I needed to find a non-surgical/non-pharmaceutical way to fix both my allergies and sinuses. He was a good guy and asked me to please let him know when I’d found the information I was seeking.  So far it has been a 30+ year journey to figure this out – and I’m sure there’s still much to learn.

 

SOME INFORMATION ON THE SINUSES:
  • Sinuses are cavities – hollow air spaces  inside the bones of the head surrounding the nose.
  • As shown in the photo above, there are four sinus areas in the human head.
  • They are lined with soft pink tissue called mucosa.
  • Healthy sinuses are empty except for a thin layer of mucus.
SINUS CONDITIONS:
  • Sinus infection (acute sinusitis): When a viral or bacterial infection lodges in the sinus cavities, a painful condition call sinusitis results. The tissues become inflamed, mucus production increases, the nose runs or is congested, a pressure headache develops and thinking becomes foggy. There can also be facial pain in the forehead, around the eyes, and cheeks; a feeling of weakness; and a postnasal drip as the mucus drains down the back of the throat, often producing a sore throat. A cough may result, frequently more severe at night.  Sinus headaches can also trigger a nasty migraine in people with a predisposition to them.
  • Allergic rhinitis:  Pollen, dust mites, pet dander or other allergens cause the defenses in the nose and sinuses to overreact, resulting in increased mucus production, nasal stuffiness, sneezing and itching.
  • Chronic sinusitis:  Chronic sinusitis (or chronic rhinosinusitis) is a persistent inflammation of the sinuses with many of the symptoms described above for acute sinusitis from a sinus infection.
  • Deviated septum: If the septum (the structure made up of bone, cartilage and mucus membrane that divides the interior of the nose) deviates too far too one side, airflow can be obstructed and infections can more easily be established in the sinuses.
  • Turbinate hypertrophy: In turbinate hypertrophy, the ridges on the nasal septum are enlarged, obstructing airflow.
  • Nasal polyps: In response to chronic inflammation, asthma, chronic sinus infections and allergic rhinitis, hollow balloon-like sacs called polyps can grow inside the nasal cavity. (WebMD, 2005-2013) These sacs tend to get sucked forward when the sufferer tries to inhale, effectively blocking breathing through the nose. (Personal experience)
SYMPTOM RELIEF
  • Sinusin – a homeopathic nasal spray that actually helps and doesn’t cause a rebound effect like pharmaceutical sprays or drops
  • Sinus Relief Mint Pillow – an herb-filled hot/moist/cold pack made by Nature  Creations specifically for sinus relief
  • Neti pot – a small pot used to irrigate the sinuses with water and sea salt

Here’s a video showing how to use a neti pot.
Try using your neti pot in the shower, where there’ll be no clean up afterwards and you can use a hand to brace yourself against the shower wall in case you feel a little dizzy from tipping your head to one side. You’ll probably have to experiment a bit to find the correct angle to hold your head so the water flows into your sinuses instead of down your throat – but I assure you that regular use of a neti pot is really helpful in keeping your sinuses clear and you’ll come to love it.
I can also tell you from personal experience that if your sinuses are highly inflamed and congested, the neti pot won’t work because the salinated water won’t be able to pass through the very swollen tissues.
And I came across the suggestion of adding the contents of a probiotics capsule to a neti pot along with the  water and sea salt. It apparently burned a lot for about 10 minutes – but totally relieved the ice pick sinus pressure from the sinus infection the woman had been suffering with for some time. I haven’t tested this myself – let me know how it works if you decide to try.
Be glad I’m not recommending you practice Sutra Neti – guiding a thread through the nostrils to cleanse the sinus passages as some in India do!

NECK STRETCHES
We tend to hold a lot of tension in our necks and shoulders. Misaligned posture and hours of sitting in front of computers only add to this tension. Neck stretches feel good and help release some of that tension. Here’s a nice one you can do while seated at a desk.  Here’s another. This longer ear reflexology video is quite interesting too. This is my all time favorite for a simple way to release tension in the neck.
MISALIGNMENT OF THE NECK
Sinus congestion sometimes comes from bones in the neck  that have become misaligned causing the muscles that attach to them to become swollen or spastic, closing off lymphatic drainage of the head and neck. Chiropractic adjustments can repair the misalignments. (Hilty, 2010)  For more information on sinuses and chiropractic see Sinus infections respond to chiropractic .

 

SELF LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE MASSAGE OF HEAD AND NECK
Lymphatic drainage massage can be very helpful for sinus congestion. This nice video demonstrates how to do it: Self Lymphatic Drainage for Sinus Congestion  See contraindications for this technique here.

 

CLEAR YOUR SINUSES IN 20 SECONDS USING YOUR TONGUE AND THUMB
This is a fast, useful way of using acupressure points to clear your sinuses in a very short time: Push your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth while using a finger to apply pressure between your eyebrows. Hold it about 20 seconds and your sinuses will begin to drain when you let go.

 

EATING YOUR BOOGERS MAY BE GOOD FOR YOU: THE HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS
Contrary to what we’re told as children when caught eating what we’ve harvested from our noses, it turns out that this  may help us build up our immunity to the environmental pathogens contained in those boogers. An interesting article called Don’t Pick Your Nose: Never Mind, Boogers May Be Good for You presents an argument, based on the Hygiene Hypothesis, that consuming boogers introduces environmental pathogens (infectious agents causing illness) to our immune systems, helping to build up defenses against future exposures.
The Hygiene Hypothesis is an important concept positing that exposure to infectious agents (eg, viruses, bacteria and parasites) and symbiotic microorganisms (eg, good gut flora called probiotics)  helps us build up a natural immunity to the harmful ones.
If we regard ALL germs as dangerous so create too cleanly an environment for our children, they aren’t able