Sinus infections and sinusitis are not only uncomfortable, but surprisingly common.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) claims that sinusitis to be “one of the most common primary care presentations in Australia”. They quote that 1.4 in every 100 visits to the GP were for some form of sinusitis, and estimate that 1.9 million Australians had chronic sinusitis in 2011-2012. It is believed ”to have a greater impact on social functioning than chronic heart failure, angina or back pain.”
What are sinuses ?
Sinuses are a connected system of hollow spaces in the head.
There are 4 pairs of sinuses:
- maxillary sinuses are the largest, located in the cheekbones.
- frontal sinuses are in the lower part of the forehead, near the eyebrows
- ethmoid sinuses are between the eyes
- sphenoid sinuses are in the bones behind the nose
The sinus spaces are lined with soft, pink tissue substance called mucosa, which produces mucus. Sinuses are normally empty, except for a thin layer of mucus.
The inside of the nose has ridges, called turbinates, that help humidify and filter air. A thin dividing wall, called a septum, divides the left and right sides of the nose.
Mucus drains from the sinuses through small channels (called meatus) into the nose and the back of the throat. This mucus clearing process is one of the body’s protection mechanisms – the mucus traps pollution, pollen, dust, and germs in the the air, and transports them away from the body.
Problems with sinuses
Despite the apparent simplicity of sinuses compared to other organs, a few things can go wrong with them.
Each sinus has a narrow space called the ostium, which is an opening for mucus drainage. If a blockage happens in the ostium of any of the sinus, mucus backs up.
Allergies and hay fever
Some people have sensitivities to certain foods, or allergens in the environment like pollen and dust. This causes the defences in the nose and sinus to react. More mucus is generated, and the nasal passages get stuffy, sneezy and itchy as a result.
Deviated nasal septum
The nasal septum is a thin bone/cartilage wall that separates the two nasal passages. Ideally, the septum is in the centre of the nose, resulting in nasal passages of the same side. If the septum is “deviated” or too far to one side, then one nasal passage will be smaller, and airflow may be reduced or blocked. Some with a deviated septum may feel no symptoms, while others feel a blocked nose in one nasal passage and frequent sinus infections. Noisy breathing, snoring, and disturbed sleep are other symptoms.
Sinusitis refers to inflammation of the mucosa lining of the sinuses, which can result in obstruction of the sinus drainage pathways. A variety of things can trigger inflammation of the mucosa – colds, allergies, a deviated septum, infection or other problems.
Sinusitis is inflammation of the mucosa lining of the sinuses, with infection being one of the common causes.
Sinus infections and sinusitis can be very uncomfortable. Mucus builds up in the sinuses, unable to drain properly. Symptoms that may be experienced include:
- facial pain, especially around the cheeks, forehead or around the eyes
- nasal congestion, giving trouble breathing through nose
- yellow or green-coloured nasal drainage
- lack of energy
Those suffering sinusitis may experience it for a short time (acute) or suffer it for much longer (chronic).
Acute sinusitis tends to have a sudden onset, giving cold-like symptoms, and is often caused by an infection. Acute cases typically last less than a month.
Chronic sinusitis lasts longer – a persistent inflammation of the sinuses. Chronic sinusitis may be caused by allergies that prevent the sinuses from draining, narrowed sinus passages or deviated septum, or recurring acute infections.
Treating sinus problems
When sinuses are blocked, the best thing to do may feel counterintuitive. The focus needs to be on keeping sinuses and nasal passages moist – drying out the nasal/sinus membranes tends to further irritate them.
Long hot showers, breathing in steam, or using a humidifier helps to keep the sinuses and nose from drying out. Placing a warm, wet towel on the face may also give some relief. And drinking plenty of fluids/water helps keep the total body hydrated.
Irrigating the nasal passages also helps many. Using sterile water or boiled, cooled water to flush water through the nasal passages and sinuses may help to clear mucus and debris with only minor side effects. Saltwater nasal sprays also help.
Many people turn to medications tend to treat the symptoms. The right choice depends on the cause of the sinus problem.
Nasal corticosteroid sprays may reduce inflammation of the mucosa.
Decongestants should only be used with caution. Decongestants aim to dry the sinuses and nasal passages, so may increase irritation and result in worse congestion after stopping taking them.
Pain medication, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, often give some temporary headache relief.
For those suffering hay fever, antihistamines help with sneezing, itching and irritated eyes. You can read a little more about Hay Fever and how Bowen Therapy may help here.
Managing the symptoms of a deviated septum usually rely on decongestants, antihistamines and nasal corticosteroid sprays. When medications don’t help, surgery may be needed to straighten the septum (septoplasty).
Sinusitis may be the result of infection. If the infection is believed to be caused by bacteria, then a course of antibiotics is usually required.
Bowen Therapy is a very gentle form of bodywork. Small, gentle, precise moves are made on muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves, triggering the body to begin a healing process.
While most commonly known for helping back pain and postural issues, Bowen Therapy also helps calm the body’s nervous system. The entire body is influenced during a Bowen treatment, through restoring balance in the autonomic nervous system. The Bowen moves prompt a shift from the stressed, sympathetic “fight or flight” mode, to parasympathetic “rest and repair” dominance.
Bowen moves impact the body in a number of ways. Nerve receptors activated during treatment act to calm the body and mind, and facilitate the body’s ability to heal. There is a clear influence of Bowen moves along the body’s fascia lines – supporting muscle coordination, postural alignment, and overall structural and functional integrity. The lymphatic system is also impacted, providing support to the body’s immune system.
Bowen Therapy to help sinuses and sinusitis
Bowen Therapists have some wonderful moves to help the respiratory system and sinuses.
After helping the back and neck relax, moves around the throat and jaw help the upper respiratory system settle. Specific Bowen moves over the sinuses give wonderful relief to many.
For some, relief can come fast with the sinuses beginning to clear during treatment or soon after. For others, especially those with chronic problems, clearing the sinuses may be slower, and would need a number of treatments to help give relief.
A regular client, who usually saw me for back pain, had been suffering with headaches from blocked sinuses. Relaxing work on the neck and sinuses had her blowing her nose the whole way home, as the sinuses began to drain their muck. The morning after treatment I received a message. “You are a miracle worker. First night sleep since Friday without an excruciating headache!! Thank you so so so much”
I’ve also personally experienced the fast clearing of congestion with sinus moves. Suffering a bad head cold and blocked sinuses last year, I was facing another night with little to no sleep. Before going to bed, I roughly worked Bowen moves on the upper respiratory system and sinuses. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well again – but this time I was constantly blowing my nose as the mucus was now clearing.
Another client who suffers chronic sinusitis didn’t experiencing that fast clear. Instead, the change was felt slowly over a couple of weeks. Continued treatment is helping that process further, slowly reducing the impact of the sinusitis.
Bowen Therapy can help support a variety of sinus problems. In conjunction with other treatments, a Bowen session may help speed up recovery. With a number of targeted treatments to bring the body into balance, the body may be able to resolve chronic problems or prevent acute issues recurring.
Read more about sinuses and sinusitis here:
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