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 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)
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!
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 to build up their natural resistance to pathogens, making them more susceptible to developing allergies, asthma, skin conditions like eczema and a wide variety of other illnesses and conditions – including all the autoimmune conditions, heart disease and depression. Specifically, lack of exposure is believed to lead to defects in the establishment of immune tolerance. See the Symbiosis vs Dysbiosis page on this site for more information.
I feel uneasy every time I see ads for Neosporin essentially equating good parenting with use of the ointment. Some ads even advise parents to use it every time on every cut. Neosporin is a triple antibiotic ointment containing three antibiotics: neomycin, bacitracin and polymyxin.
Having grown up in a time before widespread use of antibiotic ointments, I don’t recall a minor cut, abrasion or burn ever becoming infected. The US is the only large market for Neosporin. There is concern that its widespread use contributes to the increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria, including MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
Mounting research evidence shows that trying to keep our indoor environments and ourselves overly sterile backfires and actually increases our risk of developing acute and chronic diseases.
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM TO FIX YOUR SINUSES
The SUPER IMMUNITY page on this site contains information on strengthening your immune system. Boost your immune system and you’ll greatly help your sinuses – and your health in general.
EMOTIONAL ASPECTS OF SINUS CONGESTION – AND OTHER HEALTH ISSUES
See the ASTHMA page for a discussion of emotions and illness.
Hilty, D. (2010). Personal communication.
WebMD (2005-2013). Allergy Health Center. See http://www.webmd.com/allergies/picture-of-the-sinuses
© Copyright 2013-2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.