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How acupuncture views Long COVID

Updated: Jan 31


The LONG COVID symptoms of breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, headache, insomnia, digestive issues, palpitations
Long COVID symptoms

Today I am talking about, what I talk about most days. Unfortunately.


COVID-19.


It is an all-pervading topic that as I write this over 100,000 people, in the UK, have tragically lost their lives to.


But there is also another sinister aspect of this virus. These 'long-tail' symptoms which people who have had COVID are still experiencing weeks and months after their initial diagnosis.

This is, unfortunately, not an exhaustive list of common signs and symptoms and I have previously spoken about COVID tongue, which is a new sign that we are now seeing.



In Chinese Medicine, there is a saying:


Same disease, different treatment.
Different disease, same treatment.



It is the idea that in Chinese Medicine if you come in for treatment for long COVID, we will not treat you with the same needles/advice as someone else with long COVID.


Why?

  • Because your breathlessness might not be the same as that other persons. You might struggle with inhalation of breath, whereas they might struggle with an exhalation of breath.

  • Your insomnia might always be falling asleep really easily, but then waking up at 3 am every night and not being able to go back to sleep. Their insomnia might be they cannot get to sleep at 10 pm, but once asleep they don't wake up until their alarm clock

  • Your headache might be around the base of your neck, better for warmth. Their headache might be behind their eyes. Better for pressure and lying down.

What does this mean?

It means I cannot tell you how I would treat your long COVID symptoms on this blog page.


But it does mean:

  • Your signs and symptoms are relevant. You might be suffering a myriad of complaints after having COVID. I believe you and understand you.

  • You would be treated specifically according to your signs and symptoms.

  • I will offer you some general guidance on ways to help yourself below.

  • I will link to previous blogs where I have spoken about certain conditions. Remember, for example, a headache is its own sign and symptom that Chinese Medicine would look at.

The advice I will give below does not take in to account the signs and symptoms which will be individual to you. This is meant to be a general guide for some actions you might consider taking.


It should be worth noting that in acupuncture the 'organs' which we discuss are not specifically related to the 'organs' which are considered in Western medicine and understanding.

Breathlessness

In Chinese Medicine respiration we would be looking at the organs for Lungs and Kidneys.


To support the Lungs and Kidneys we can look at their elements and seasons and the foods and energetics we might take.


Lungs & Qigong

As the Lungs govern respiration an important practice for helping with breathlessness is Qigong.


Peter Deadman has created a 20 minute YouTube video specifically for the Lungs and COVID.


Qigong is a practice which integrates breath, mind and body and can be done sitting if required.


Foods to support Lungs and Kidneys

I have written about foods which are useful for the Lungs and Kidneys. These posts are related to the seasons but within them, they contain foods which are beneficial. A brief guide is below but the links will provide further details.


Lungs

  1. To counter dryness e.g. tofu, tempeh, soy milk, spinach, barley, millet, apple, pear, mushroom, almond, pinenut

  2. Pungent specifically relates to the Metal element - eat foods to support the Lungs with garlic, turnip, ginger, radish, cabbage

  3. The lung stores phlegm - eat foods such as seaweeds, marshmallow root, flaxseed, fenugreek


Kidneys

  1. The flavour associated with the Kidneys and Water element is salt.

  2. Foods that fortify the Kidneys are considered to be black, or dark, in colour

  3. Bitter foods can also be beneficial for the Kidneys.

Anxiety

I wrote a comprehensive blog on anxiety here. As always anxiety does not manifest in the same way for everyone.


The blog highlights acupuncture, breath techniques, yoga and food which might be useful for helping with your anxiety.


Below you can find some acupuncture points that you can use pressure on and if you need more accurate locations, please email me. I will be happy to help.


What anxiety might you experience?

Joint pain

Acupuncture has been specifically highlighted by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for pain.


Whilst my recent blog post does not indicate specific advice, there is a wealth of evidence suggesting the efficacy for acupuncture and pain.


Questions that your acupuncturist will want to clarify will be:

  1. Where is the pain?

  2. Does the pain come and go, or is it consistently painful?

  3. What makes the pain better or worse?

  4. Can you describe the pain? Is it dull or sharp or heavy?

Headaches

Similarly to joint pain, your acupuncturist will want to clarify what your headache is like for you. The location, type of pain, what makes it better or worse will indicate different things to them and they can treat this accordingly.


Do you recognise any of these headaches?

Gua sha is an amazing treatment for headaches and is used for 'scraping' away illness.



Insomnia

As you will come to expect this is diagnosed specifically to your own insomnia. It might be that you have trouble falling asleep. Or it might be that you have issues with waking up during the night. These are all indicative of something in acupuncture and are treated individually.


Some suggestions for how to work with insomnia are in this blog. In that blog I discuss:

  • Sleep hygiene suggestions

  • Foods to encourage sleep

  • What your sleep position means

  • Acupressure points for insomnia, which I am also adding below for you to use.



General guidance for the immune system according to acupuncture

In acupuncture, Wei Qi and Zheng Qi are considered to be the bodies defence system. If you have had COVID it would be important for your acupuncturist to clear any residual pathogens and any side effects from the medication you have taken e.g. antibiotics.


They would also look to build your own Wei & Zheng Qi.


To support this you could incorporate some of the elements below.



Can I also suggest, if you are interested, looking at the Jade Screen Project? This project is a group of Chinese medicine herbalists who are offering free treatments for front line workers.


Their website also indicates research conducted around the efficacy of Chinese medicine herbs.


I hope you have found some of this useful. Please add any comments below, or feel free to get in touch with me to discuss further.


Love your fave (Letchworth) acupuncturist.


Andrea

p.s. for acupuncture students reading this, I am including below the Yin organ relationships. It is really interesting to see how the symptoms of COVID can very easily be re-imagined as the knock-on effect.


An example of this might be breathlessness and palpitations. If the Lung Qi (breathlessness) cannot move Blood then Heart Qi will become weak (palpitations).


Or breathlessness and digestive issues. If the Lung Qi is not moving (breathlessness), then the Liver may over-exert itself to get Qi moving smoothly. When the Liver is grumpy it might invade the Spleen causing digestive issues.

  • Breathlessness

  • Fatigue

  • Brain fog

  • Anxiety

  • Headaches

  • Insomnia

  • Joint pain

  • Palpitations

  • Digestive issues

Very interesting. What other relationships might you see with COVID?

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Acupuncturist in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire