One year ago on Wednesday, January 20th, the first COVID case was diagnosed in the United States. Since then, more than 22 million people in the United States have been infected by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and more than 400,000 people have died. COVID-19 produces a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection in most people, however, it can be devastating or deadly in the elderly and in those with chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer.
Most patients affected by COVID-19 recover completely, but a yet unknown percentage (“Long haulers” or “Long COVID”) can have lingering symptoms that last from weeks to even months after they recover from the acute illness. The most common lingering symptoms are fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, palpitations, chest pain, joint pain, depression, and insomnia.
A recent study that measured biomarkers involved in inflammation and stress response 40 days post-COVID infection showed that these markers were elevated even in asymptomatic patients, which means inflammation might be one of the reasons symptoms can stay for months. Another study found that COVID-19 patients have a dramatic increase in autoantibodies against proteins that regulate the immune response. This means that the body is attacking the virus but could also be attacking its own.
Acupuncture can regulate the immune function by preventing inflammation. Harvard Medical School published recently a study where acupuncture was used successfully to tame systemic inflammation in mice suffering from cytokine storm, a known complication of severe COVID-19. Cytokine storm is a life-threatening condition because of the rapid release of cytokines and immune-cell hyperactivation that leads to multiorgan dysfunction and multiorgan failure if it is not treated.
Acupuncture has been used in China for centuries and is still used now along with herbal medicine during the pandemic for prevention, treatment, and recovery of COVID-19 infection. In the recovery phase, acupuncture has been an invaluable tool to restore vitality and repair the functions of the lungs and spleen (organs affected by the virus according to Chinese medicine). Many of the COVID symptoms come from an affected Lung meridian, but other symptoms such as muscle aches, brain fog, nausea, and even depression and insomnia, could be attributed to the Spleen and Stomach meridians. By balancing these meridians, symptoms can be relieved.
I am not treating patients with COVID-19 but if you are out of the acute phase and have “Long COVID” symptoms, acupuncture can help to speed up your recovery process. In addition to that, acupuncture can strengthen your immune system and also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system producing a calming and relaxing effect. Social isolation has had detrimental effects on our mental health. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are some of the emotional consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. You are not alone in this. Let me help you recover and feel your best.