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Acupuncture Treats Vertigo and Meniere's Disease
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

What is Ménière's disease?

Ménière's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance. It is characterized by episodes of dizziness and tinnitus and progressive hearing loss, usually in one ear. It is caused by an increase in volume and pressure of the endolymph of the inner ear.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are extremely successful in the treatment of symptoms associated with Ménière's disease.

Attributing Factors:

While no actual cause is known for Ménière's disease, several factors have been linked to it:

  • Tension and anxiety can lead to attack
  • A high salt intake (probably due to increased fluid retention)
  • Some women have premenstrual attacks which are associated with fluid retention
  • There is a direct link with migraine in 30% of recorded cases
  • Head injury severe enough to cause a concussion
  • Syphilis
  • Glandular or hormonal imbalance (including hypothyroidism)
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Allergies
  • Common factors such as chocolate, smoking, alcohol, dairy products and wheat
  • High doses of aspirin (from 14 to 16 tablets per day) can cause ringing in the ears. This type of tinnitus is reversible, simply by withdrawing the intake of aspirin

Ménière's Disease from an Oriental medicine perspective

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine usually attribute vertigo to phlegm and dampness obstruction.  This causes the vertigo along with symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

It is also often diagnosed as kidney yin deficiency causing liver wind to ascend and cause vertigo, dizziness, headache, blurred vision and tinnitus.

Points used for vertigo and Ménière's disease

Acupuncture points are chosen depending on the diagnosis. Many points will be on the scalp and around the ears but they will also be on the body.

For liver wind:
Gallbladder 20 (GB 20) and Liver 3 (Lv 3)

Local points around the ear to restore circulation of Qi:
San Jiao 17 (SJ 17) and Small Intestine 19 (SI 19)

For nausea, vomiting, phlegm and dampness:
Pericardium 6 (Pc 6), Stomach 36 (St 36) and Ren 12 (Co 12)

For kidney yin deficiency:
Kidney 3 (Ki 3)

Dietary Recommendations:

Dietary measures involve reducing cholesterol, reducing fluid intake, stopping alcohol, and eliminating added salt from the diet. This reduction in salt intake is most important, as salt increases fluid retention and intralabyrinthine pressure in the inner ear. Stopping coffee and cigarettes is also important because they constrict the blood vessels.

O'Connor J, Benksy D (transl, ed.) Acupuncture: a comprehensive text–Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine. Chicago: Eastland, 1981, 684-85.