Most patients seek out osteopaths for musculoskeletal aches and pains. One thing that many people do not usually think about going to their osteopathic physician for is sinus infections, sinusitis or sinus congestion. Osteopathy was originally used to treat infectious diseases in the 1800’s. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) can, however, be very beneficial in resolving sinus infections, especially chronic sinus infections. My first personal experience with this was several years ago when I had traveled to take a seminar in Albuquerque. I had started to feel sick prior to traveling to Albuquerque. Once I had arrived, I was feeling very congested in my sinuses with intense facial pain over my sinuses and a headache. Luckily at the seminar, was a very skilled osteopathic physician who offered to treat me. When I laid down on the table, I was congested, having difficulty breathing and having facial pain. She worked on my head, neck and rib cage. By the time she was done 20 minutes later, my sinuses had drained, I could breathe through my nose and my facial pain was gone. Although I still felt sick even for several days after that, the congestion and facial pain never returned. That experience really showed me what osteopathic manipulation could do for congestion.
Since then I have treated many people for acute and sinus infections and been able to help them have similar experiences. Cranial osteopathy can be very helpful in helping the body resolve these issues. In a previous blog, I have written about the concepts of cranial osteopathy. Let’s do a brief review to explain how sinus congestion may arise. One principle of cranial osteopathy is that the bones of the head do not fuse and the sutures are designed in a way that allow for small motion. The small motion that takes place in the head has a range of millimeters. The motion is rhythmic and described as an ebb and flow of a tide similar to how the rib cage expands and compresses during respiration. Proper motion of the bones of the head is considered important for overall health, not just of the head. In the case of the sinus congestion, some of the smaller bones in the head act like plungers for the sinuses as they go through their motion.
When the bones are jammed and the sutures become compressed in the head, that motion of the bones acting as plungers may become diminished. As a result, the sinuses are unable to drain and mucus then accumulates in the sinuses. If the motion is not restored, then the sinuses become congested and more prone to infections. Sometimes diminished movement may not be an issue until something such as an upper respiratory infection overwhelms the body’s ability to drain the sinuses by increased mucus production. Part of this is likely because varying degrees of how much the plunging motion is affected. The more it is affected, the more difficult it will be to drain the sinuses even in the absence of an infection.
Osteopathic physicians who perform cranial manipulation as part of their OMT diagnose the restrictions of the sutures and decreased motion of the rhythm of the bones of the head. Then, they gently will work on freeing up the compressed sutures restoring normal motion of the bones of the head allowing for the essential plunger-like activity. The plunging ability allows the sinuses to drain, enhances blood flow and brings in the healing mechanisms of the body resulting in quicker healing time. This is only a portion of what osteopathic physicians diagnose and treat for sinus congestion. Others factors that are evaluated and treated for sinus congestion include venous and lymphatic congestion in the head, tension of the trigeminal nerve that innervates the sinuses, rib cage restrictions and more.
In conclusion, osteopathy works with sinus congestion by helping to restore proper movement of the bones of the head that allows proper drainage of the congestion of the sinuses and restoring normal physiologic function of the body. This maximizes the health of the body and allows the body to clear sinus congestion and help you feel more comfortable as your body clears your infection.
Why not try OMT for your sinuses?