The Blockage Theory of Disease — Treating Sinus Infection
It’s officially cold and flu season, and unfortunately, this concern is still relevant even though we are all focused on the COVID19 pandemic.
One of the unwelcome conditions that can develop from a common cold or flu virus is a sinus infection. If you’ve ever suffered from a sinus infection, then you know that the symptoms are unpleasant and can include headache, facial pain, runny nose, and nasal congestion.
In some cases, a sinus infection can lead to recurring problems, and some people are prone to recurrent sinusitis. While medical experts agree that in most cases the cause of recurrent sinusitis is unknown, one way to explain this is the Blockage Theory of Disease. This is based on understanding that wound healing is never 100% perfect, and in many cases the nerves that supply the sinuses can remain sensitive after an infection, and this can be associated with changes in blood supply and lymphatic drainage, and in some cases chronic inflammation or colonization with microbes can occur. This is how one sinus infection can lead to many more, leaving you prone to getting sinus infections again and again.
If you suffer from recurrent sinus infections, these sensitive nerves in your face can affect how you recover from any injury to the head and neck, including concussions. The same changes in nerve function that can occur after a sinus infection can create what I call a blockage, and these blockages can make you more prone to long-term problems after any injury or trauma. There are many potential causes of blockages in the head and neck that might prevent you from recovering from a concussion. These include cracked or broken teeth, any facial trauma, fractures or other injuries to the clavicles or collarbones, whiplash injury, a broken nose, cuts needing stitches and bruises from blunt trauma. I call this the Blockage Theory of Disease because it is as significant as the Germ Theory, and I am working to ensure that one day the targeted treatment of blockages will be a routine part of modern medical practice.
One of the ways that these blockages can impact your health is by creating scar tissue. This is how we describe the fascia in the area of an injury or trauma. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. After any injury, the body’s normal wound healing process replaces damaged tissue with new tissue, and the fascial fibers in this new tissue are never quite the same. This can affect how they stretch and move, affecting long chains of fascia that connect groups of muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons that work together.
These long channels of connective tissue travel along the entire length of your body — from head to toe. They are sometimes called myofascial meridians, and they roughly map onto the acupuncture channels described thousands of years ago as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. These channels were ignored by western medicine because anatomists could never find them in the bodies they dissected, but fascia provides an intriguing possible scientific explanation of the meridian system. It also helps explain how a blockage in your sinus might affect the other structures in your head.
Typically, a patient who presents with a sinus infection is treated with nasal irrigation, inhaled steroids or with an antibiotic.
But if these treatments do not resolve the problem, there are many natural therapies that might be worth a try. One example is a simple neti pot. This device, which has been used for centuries as part of Traditional Ayurvedic medicine of India. Many people have reported that regular use of a neti pot or other nasal irrigation devices can alleviate their congestion, facial pain and pressure. They can be found at your local drug store and cost anywhere from $15 to usually cost less than $30 dollars.
If you want to give a neti pot a try, I recommend using it twice a day for about a month. Keep track of your symptoms, either in a journal or just by paying attention to your progress, and decide for yourself if it helps.
If you can see a physician or another qualified healthcare provider, they can help you be sure that you did it correctly, and decide whether your symptoms improved or not. This is called a therapeutic trial, and it is a rational prescribing approach to integrative medicine — trying unproven therapies, one at a time, using a systematic approach to see which works best for you. You can use a similar approach to try a dairy-free diet, an air filter in your bedroom, acupuncture, laser therapy or any other unproven treatment. A lack of solid evidence means that they should be recommended for everyone with sinus problems, but they are certainly worth a try.
The Blockage Theory of Disease is not just important for understanding sinus infections. In my time spent treating patients that other doctors couldn’t fix, one of my ‘secret weapons’ is to treat the areas where they were hurt in the past. I have seen neck pain improve after treating an ankle that was badly sprained in childhood. I have seen chronic shoulder problems improve after treating a wrist that was fractured many years ago.
I now see the Blockage Theory of Disease as one of the most important unknown causes of the global burden of chronic disease. My work is focused on increasing awareness and understanding of blockages among physicians, researchers and regular people who are trying to get well and stay well.