LONG COVID EXPERIENCE AS A PRACTITIONER
One of my bucket list items is to integrate Eastern and Western medicine so we can streamline the effective delivery of our health service. It’s a big task (read here about my discovery of how it’s done in China) but we have a unique opportunity with ‘Long Covid’ to work together to uncover answers on how to tackle this new mysterious post viral complication before it becomes an epidemic.
It’s estimated that two million people in the UK have been diagnosed with Long Covid.
This past year I have been exploring this integrative approach through a clinic that I co-founded and ran with a great team of acupuncturists to exclusively treat the NHS staff and support them through the huge increase of stress due to the pandemic.
Thankfully the project was a huge confirmation for our perceived outcomes. Not only was it rewarding and successful, it proved how effective acupuncture is in dealing with workplace related illness. Co-incidently it was where I had the opportunity to work on most of my active long covid cases. Sadly, many NHS staff, caught Covid on the job and were having difficulty in recovering especially with the demands of their jobs.
CHALLENGES OF SYMPTOMS
The trick with Long Covid is it has a lengthy list of symptoms that don’t have a set pattern for each case. It’s an adaptive virus that attacks the weakest part of the patient’s constitution. It’s a complete ‘pick and mix’ of symptoms for sufferers. Some people have a few or many of the symptoms at once so it can be difficult to know where to start. The most common symptoms listed:
Loss of taste and smell
Here is an interesting factoid for you. The most intriguing ‘Covid toe’ (chilblain like lesions) that is emerging occurs on what the Chinese call the 'jing well' points on the hands and feet. These are commonly used to clear disease from the channel so ‘Covid toe’ makes sense to us- the disease is either progressing down and out of the body or needs to be cleared from the channel using these points. I tried it on a patient to great success!
HOW WE CAN TREAT LONG COVID WITH ACUPUNCTURE?
As a holistic medicine, acupuncture can be hugely beneficial in confusing cases. Acupuncturists are generalists and the basis of Chinese medicine is to treat the whole system by looking at individual symptoms and how they interact and present as illness whereas in western medicine they often refer out. In a long covid case you might need a cardiologist for the heart palpitations, a neurologist for headaches and a physiotherapist for muscle pain,
Here’s a diluted explanation of how we can work on everything at once - Chinese medicine divides the body into meridians. Each meridian or channel relates to the function of an organ system. By placing the needles in the selected points they move the energy within the channels like removing leaves from a gutter so the pipes don’t block up. (There is bound to be is a much more poetic ancient Chinese metaphor but you get my drift).
Long Covid symptoms defined in a very simple form from a Chinese view:
severe fatigue could be related to the kidney and the spleen
headaches and muscle pain the liver
heart palpitations and anxiety the heart and pericardium channels
breathlessness to the lung meridian
By selecting the acupuncture points that relate to the dysfunctional channel it can help the body recover. An acupuncturist can treat a number of channels in one treatment. We have indications of what points to select based on symptoms and through reading the pulses. This tool tells us which organs are deficient or channels blocked etc.
WHERE TO NOW?
During the last 12 months my anecdotal clinical experience has proven to be really positive in helping long covid patients recover. Just like Western practitioners I have had to draw on years of training and experience to make educated guesses as to how to attack this and to collaborate with colleagues. The application of ‘ treating the whole’ has held weight.
Any Western doctors grappling with the enigma of Long Covid should consider Chinese medicine as an option for their patients. Invite some acupuncturists into these Long Covid clinics and see what results we can create together. You have nothing to lose. As this last year has proven to me teamwork is dream work.