Learning & Resource Center Articles
Preventing and Treating Cellulitis with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection which affects the superficial and deeper layers of the skin. Common symptoms include redness, swelling and tenderness of the afflicted area. Most often it is the lower legs which suffer, but any area of the body may come under attack. Seeking early treatment is crucial as the condition may spread rapidly onto adjoining areas of the infected skin, and in the worst case scenario, bacteria may come into contact with the bloodstream.
Other symptoms of cellulitis include pain, blisters, skin dimpling, fast growing portions of red patches and the discharge of pus or clear fluid. If a fever, nausea, vomiting, skin numbness or intense pain is present, it is important to immediately seek emergency medical treatment. The situation could be potentially life-threatening if the bacteria causing the infection reach the bloodstream.
This skin condition is most likely to manifest due to a puncture wound, an insect or animal bite, post-surgical complications, burns, open wounds, or pre-existing skin problems—basically, any scenario that provides a portal for bacteria to enter the body. People contending with obesity, blood circulation problems, weakened immune systems or lymphedema (abnormal collection of fluids in the legs or arms) maintain a higher risk of contracting cellulitis.
Although the recommended treatment involves the use of physician-prescribed antibiotics, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers a variety of treatments and dietary advice for preventing and treating the infection. A typical course of antibiotics generally takes 2-10 days before results set in, in the meantime even one session with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can provide relief from certain symptoms.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can increase the efficacy of the antibiotics used to treat cellulitis, as well as protect the body from harmful side effects. Pharmaceuticals place a burden on the liver and kidneys, as part of their jobs entail removing harmful substances from the body. Therefore supporting these organs helps the immune system run more efficiently.
Treatment of cellulitis focuses on eliminating pathogenic heat from the body due to the unmistakable presence of red skin and sensations of warmth. According to the principles of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the human body consists of two forces—yin and yang. They are the exact opposite of each other and they constantly rearrange themselves to maintain balance.
For example, yin expresses as nighttime and yang as daytime. In the transition hours of dusk and dawn, unique lighting manifests in the sky, which demonstrates a careful balancing act as yin transforms to yang, and vice versa. Acupuncture needling functions similarly to the way the sunrise and sunset do. At these special times, the gates between yin and yang open up so the two forces can come together in harmony and allow for a new, healthy expression of life.
Notable acupuncture points which strongly release heat reside on the Large Intestine (LI) meridian. A meridian is a set route which healing energy, or Qi, distributes itself throughout the body. LI4, located on the hand, and LI11, found at the elbow, make excellent choices for treating cellulitis. This is because the healing properties of these points include the reduction of pain and reduce the chances of the infection spreading further into the skin layers.
Other heat symptoms may resolve as well when points on the LI channel receive needles. Fever, nausea, rapid pulse and vomiting may resolve. Additionally, on the emotional level, anxiety and stress over the condition may lessen. It should hearten a patient, and their loved ones, to know the skin condition is not contagious. It should also be a comfort to patients to be aware that acupuncture needles never enter into the skin where the pathology is. Only healthy areas of skin are options for needle insertion.
In order to stave off the possibility of cellulitis, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about hygiene, keep up a healthy immune system and immediately apply first aid to any wounds. If you discover an insect bite or minor abrasion/burn on your skin, check out your kitchen for some natural remedies.
Chamomile tea is known for its antimicrobial properties, and can soothe irritated skin. Used at room temperature, this tea makes an excellent wash for minor skin injuries. Avoiding spicy and greasy foods during an episode of cellulitis will help the organs and blood remain cool. Mint tea is a wonderful way finish a meal, as it can draw excess heat from the digestive system. Topping the list as the coolest foods are cucumbers and watermelon.
When suffering from acute cellulitis, there is the possibility of contracting MRSA, a strain of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Treatment may require surgical intervention to remove the raw, badly-infected skin. Post-surgical acupuncture treatments must go beyond removing heat, and perform the function of eliminating fire toxins.
Applying acupuncture to the fire point of a channel helps release the energy producing signs of extreme heat. For example, the fire point on the Stomach meridian, located near the toes, is an apt choice, especially if surgery occurred on the legs. Utilizing ST44 enables the immune system to function in a more organized, intelligent capacity to assist in recovery for the cellulitis patient.
For more information on treatments for cellulitis, contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine near you.
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.