Although acupuncture may not spring to mind immediately when we think of long COVID symptoms, in fact, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have always been used traditionally to alleviate the debilitating effects of post-viral syndrome. As a variant strain of the standard common cold, coronavirus family, COVID-19, like any virus, has the risk of leaving those who have recovered from the illness with a variety of symptoms, many of which respond very well to acupuncture.
What Are the Symptoms of Long COVID?
While loss of smell and fatigue are the most well-known symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2, the broader list of possible symptoms also includes headache, anxiety, blurred vision, chest pains, gastrointestinal changes, heart palpitations, 'brain-fog, depression, insomnia, sinusitis, post-exertional malaise (PIM), loss of taste as well as smell, loss of appetite, chronic coughing, shortness of breath, painful muscles and joints, impaired recall, and more.
A glance at this list of symptoms reveals that there is considerable overlap with post-viral conditions common to other viral infections such as the common cold, herpes, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, or pneumonia.
Depending upon your specific case, you may be experiencing one or many of these and your practitioner will decide upon a course of action based upon the differentiation of your presenting symptoms. With Traditional Chinese Medicine there is never a one-size-fits-all answer and each cluster of symptoms will be treated within the context of your overall health and energy system.
For example, while one person may be presenting mainly with insomnia and heart palpitations, indicating a disturbance affecting the Heart and or Pericardium, another may have shortness of breath and sinusitis which may be more indicative of disturbance to the Kidney and Lung.
While this large group of symptoms may appear unrelated, in Chinese medicine a common thread is obvious. The presence of a virus is likely to have an effect on Kidney energy leaving the patient in a state of ‘deficiency’ or depletion. It is therefore highly likely that Kidney energy will need to be supported on some level. Successful treatment of Kidney Qi may already alleviate some breathing problems, muscular pain, particularly to the lower back, memory loss, and chronic fatigue.
Likewise, if Heart energy is successfully treated, then some forms of insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, and other symptoms will subside.
The etiology of the disease, while taken into consideration, is not as important for treatment as the presentation. Whether the origin of the chronic fatigue condition, for example, is HIV, COVID-19, or a serious flu, the treatment protocol will be the same, based upon the specific presentation of that patient.
How Effective is the Treatment?
Many studies have been carried out and systematic reviews conducted showing the efficacy of acupuncture across a very broad spectrum of the listed conditions including post-infectious loss of smell and chronic fatigue, the two most common symptoms associated with ‘long Covid’.
Acupuncture has been shown, in many cases, to be more effective in the treatment of these conditions than placebo control groups and other forms of treatment.
While long-term, large-scale studies on the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of long COVID symptoms are not yet available, the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of post-viral symptoms is long-established, both traditionally, throughout the long history of Chinese medicine and today in the modern era.
If you would like to explore this treatment option or have any questions about the appropriateness of acupuncture for the treatment of your post-viral condition, please don’t hesitate to reach out.