Please note – I’m talking here about treating the symptoms of long covid. I’m not talking about treating the virus itself.
As the pandemic drags on and on and on, I have more and more patients coming to me for acupuncture treatment of the symptoms of long covid. There is a wide variety of issues people are presenting with, but here is a list of the most common. Interestingly, my list is largely reflected in the study that I reference below.
· Lung issues – shortness of breath on exertion, excessive phlegm and mucous production. Patients are also reporting chronic coughs and chest tightness
· Heart issues – the symptom that I’m seeing most often are chest pain, irregular heart beats (arrhythmia) and rapid heart rates (tachycardia)
· Worsening of underlying conditions. This is based on my experience and those of colleagues who I’ve spoken with, but it seems to be a pattern. For example, I’ve had several people whose autoimmune conditions flared up after getting covid. Now I know correlation isn’t causation but all the same, I’d like to see research done on this question
· Joint pain – patients with a history of joint pain seem to often flare with long covid
· Fatigue. This seems to be number one. Most, if not all, people who are reporting post-covid symptoms are excessively and easily fatigued
· Menstrual cycle changes. Some women’s cycles seem to get thrown off and become irregular. Bleeding patterns also seem to change, becoming either lighter or heavier
· Brain fog, difficulty thinking and making decisions
· Worsening of psycho-emotional issues such as anxiety and depression. My feeling is that this one is tough to correlate strictly with having had covid because of the effects that lockdowns have had on people’s mental health. More research is needed.
James Williams and Jacques Moramarco published a paper June 16, 2022 (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acu.2021.0090) that reports on the role acupuncture can play in helping people with long covid. The results are very promising. While I tend to use both acupuncture and herbal medicine with my long covid patients, I was very encouraged to see how positive the results of acupuncture alone seem to be.
Williams et al write that “early reports suggest acupuncture can effectively address both symptoms and the underlying causes of long covid”. They go on to say “acupuncture is well defined in Traditional Chinese Medicine writings to treat influenza-like febrile illnesses. Contemporary scientific literature and case studies support the value of acupuncture for symptoms associated with acute and chronic respiratory viral infections, such as influenza, including SARS and COVID-19. Recent reports provide early evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness in managing Long COVID symptoms and may also have disease-modifying benefits”
Chinese medicine has a long history of treating the sequelae of viral infections – these types of infections were much more common during its formative years, when hygiene standards and understanding of viral transmission were much lower. There was a great need to treat long covid-like presentations because they were so common. Examples of viruses that cause long haul problems include hepatitis B and C. A likely cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a latent Epstein-Barr viral infection. Lyme disease, while caused by a bacteria (to summarize quickly – the pathomechanism of chronic Lyme is actually much more complicated), is another example of an illness that can become chronic with devastating results.
Given how many people are dealing with long covid symptoms, as a society we need to be openminded as to the most effective, safest and most accessible methods to treat them. This is particularly true given the strain our health care system is under. We need to research what works and what doesn’t and educate people about their treatment options. My own experience as well as mounting research data indicate that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can play an important part in this.
So if you are someone suffering from long covid, please don’t lose hope. You don’t need to. Both western medical and complementary health practitioners are gaining valuable experience and understanding of how to effectively treat these symptoms and help get you back to a state of vibrancy and health.
As always, I’m very happy to answer any questions you may have. You are also welcome to book a consult at my Collingwood, Meaford or Toronto clinics, using the buttons attached.
All the best.