Learning & Resource Center Articles
Upper Airway Inflammation Relief
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Inflammation of the upper airway structures may result in illnesses such as laryngitis, pharyngitis and tonsillitis. The larynx is more commonly known as the voice box, which encases our vocal cords. The pharynx is the medical term for the throat. The tonsils are located on both sides at the back of the throat. As a component of the lymphatic system, they assist the body in staving off infections.
Causes and Symptoms of Upper Airway Inflammation
Inflammation of upper airway structures is often caused by viral or bacterial infections. Although the pain of a raw, red throat can reach high levels, usually the condition resolves on its own within a few days, if the cause is a virus. If bacteria are present however, a physician will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Allergies, stuck foreign material, trauma, tumors and neuromuscular disease are less common factors which may cause these illnesses as well.
Pain in the neck area is a common symptom with laryngitis, pharyngitis and tonsillitis. Pharyngitis tends to arise quickly, bringing symptoms of a dry and sore throat, mild fever, cough, headache and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Tonsillitis presents with similar manifestations plus bad breath, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands and white or yellow pus on the tonsils. Laryngitis produces a rough, hoarse voice but can also result in fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, dry cough and dysphagia.
Relief with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, treating upper airway illness is extremely important because the pathogens causing them can spread to the internal organs and cause much harm. The reason a patient succumbs to these illnesses may be two-fold. One, an internal deficiency exists such as a weakened immune system. Two, an invasion of external elements occurred.
Exposure to wind, cold, heat, dryness or dampness can permeate into the body and manifest signs of respiratory illness. These elements enter through our skin, nose, ears and even our eyes. The next time your mother tells you to wear a hat and scarf when it’s cold out, remember how thin and vulnerable the skin on the neck is and how much heat is lost through an uncovered head.
According to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the beginning stages of respiratory illness and the diagnosis entails the element of wind. For example, a pharyngitis patient presenting with a dry, sore throat, mild fever and harsh cough demonstrates the symptoms of Wind Heat. A practitioner will therefore release the wind, eliminate heat and reduce pain. An acupuncture point near the base of the thumb, called Union Valley, expels pathogenic factors causing illness.
Phlegm may result if the pathogenic factors infiltrate deeper into the body. This might manifest as a cough that produces thick sputum. For a patient with tonsillitis, thick patches of yellow pus may cover the tonsils. In this case, a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may utilize an acupuncture point on the leg, called Abundant Bulge. This point transforms phlegm so the lungs can expel it more easily from the body.
If upper airway inflammation illness strikes and pain sets in, a mixture of warm water and a little salt is a wonderful gargle that can immediately soothe a rough, painful throat. For a throat that feels dry and sore, consider munching on a few juicy grapes to help bring moisture back. Small amounts of fruit juice at room temperature are also an option. For a throat filled with phlegm, sipping warm water can help loosen and dilute the thick coating.
At any stage of laryngitis, pharyngitis, or tonsillitis, an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help mitigate pain and bring relief to your symptoms.
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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.