Role of Acupuncture in Management of the COVID-19 Scenario

Dr Raman Kapur

Acupuncture has been proven scientifically by many studies to improve immunity against all types of viral and bacterial infections.

Mechanism of Acupuncture in sleep disorders/stress due to fear of covid infection:-

a) insertion of Acupuncture needles activates peripheral nerves and muscles through sensory stimulation which further modulates the parasympathetic nervous system ( a major regulator of sleep)

b) Acupuncture regulates various neurotransmitter’s and hormonal factors like endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, ACTH and melatonin. ( All of which play a major role in sleep regulation).

ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT:- Most common scientific studies have been conducted using acupoints DU.20, P.6, ST.36 and SP.6.  Treatment with acupuncture to promote immunity is generally given thrice a week for about 4 weeks and then a maintenance treatment of once a week is sufficient.

Other adjuvant modalities:

a) Moxibustion, in which a herb ( Artemesia vulgaris) is made into a roll and burnt over an acupuncture point ST.36 ( 10 minutes each side).  It can also be used as a self help device to improve immunity.  This point is also known in Acupuncture as a point for treating 400 diseases.

bEar press needles at specific ear points can also be used to promote immunity and restore normal sleep patterns.  Ear points used are shenmen, sympathetic, Lu, K and spleen points. 

c) Catgut embedding therapy at a specific point on the anterior chest wall (REN 17) has also been used to improve respiratory capacity in patients with chronic asthma and COPD.

d) Electro Acupuncture(EA)- Electrodes are applied to certain acupuncture points in order to stimulate the body’s central nervous system ( specially the hypothalamus) to produce specific neurotrasmitters and opoids.  These chemicals further enhance the patient’s immunity.

d) Cupping therapy:- Application of special cups ( Bamboo, plastic or glass) at certain target points, helps to relax the tense muscles and induce a sense of calmness in the body.  This helps induce sleep.

As patients are recovering from Covid 19, the problems which they are suffering with in the aftermath of the infection, are multifarious.

The commonest issues which are persisting even after 2 weeks of testing negative are:-

1. Cough- persistent, with sore throat

2. Extreme fatigue

3. Post-covid lung disease.

4. Anxiety, depression, insomnia

5. Cognitive issues similar to moderate traumatic brain injury.

6. Digestive problems like bloating, imitable bowel, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain.

The problem of persistent cough after recovering from a covid attack is very common.  Acupuncture produces 90% effective rate with no side effects.  Such patients complain of dry cough, throat irritation and scanty white phlegm.   In the acupuncture group, patients were needled at Lu.10 , Lu.1, Lu.5, Lu.6, Lu.7, ST.25, ST.36 and ST.40.  Total treatment sessions were 10 and each session is of 30 minute duration.

In the medication group, patients were given Methoxyphenamine capsules thrice a day for 10 days and success rate was 70%.

Patients develop extreme fatigue following Covid illness due to depletion of their Qi due to hypoactivity of the Hypothalamic- pituitary axis.  Acupuncture was given at selected acupoints P.6, ST.36, SP.6, Liv.3, Ren.4, Du.20, Ub.23 for 5 days in a week for 2 weeks and 80% patients showed improvement in their fatigue levels.

Post covid lung disease can be effectively tackled using acupuncture and moxibustion.  The principle is to promote, regulate and stimulate the body’s self regulating function.  Most of these patients have symptoms similar to COPD, due to damage to lung parenchyma caused by Pneumonitis

Anxiety, depression and Insomnia are very common in Post covid patients and these can be effectively tackled by stimulating specific acupoints which release melatonin and the happy hormone-> SEROTONIN.

Many patients who have recovered from Covid illness complain of a lingering cognitive impact- problems with their memory and inability to stay focussed.  This is caused due to the body’s response to infection which leads to blood becoming extremely sticky.  This is particularly seen in patients who stayed in ICU care for covid illness.  Early studies on this problem have shown that acupuncture given at points LI.4, Li.11 DU.20, ST.36, ST.40, GB.34 shishencong, P.6, H.7, Du.16, Liv.3, improved cognitive ability.  Treatment ws given over a period of 4 weeks, 5 days a week, for 30 minute each session.

Post covid digestive symptoms are mainly persistent nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, bloating, abdominal pain and irritable bowel.  Patients were given Acupuncture thrice a week for 4 weeks.  The major cause of these symptoms is the impact on spleen, stomach, and liver organs.  Acupuncture promotes gastric peristalsis in subjects with low intensity gastric motility and suppresses peristalsis in those with acute initial motility.

Almost 70-80% patients showed improvement in their symptoms with acupuncture which is a safe, efficacious treatment without any side effects.

Dr. Raman kapur,

Padmashri

Vice Chairman, Apex Committee on Acupuncture, Gov. of India

President, Indian Society of Medical Acupuncture

Director, Institute of Acupuncture and Natural Medicine

Head of Department of Acupuncture, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

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