Updated: Jan 26
I think the whole nation is now wanting to see an end to Covid, to be able to get on with our lives and gain some normality. Luckily with the vaccines and the latest, less aggressive strain most people seem to be having a lot less symptoms. However, this winter (2022) I have seen more family and friends in Shrewsbury and across Shropshire be infected by Covid, so, in this blog I want to discuss long Covid, because, for some, the symptoms seem to linger, this could be you or your family or friends.
The UK Office of National Statistics has released data on the prevalence of long Covid symptoms. They estimate that 22% suffer symptoms for 5 weeks after and 10% for 12 weeks after.
Any patient with covid-19 may develop long Covid, regardless of the severity of their infection or the intensity of the treatment they received, patients with mild symptoms can also develop long Covid. The most seen symptoms are fatigue, breathlessness, cardio abnormalities, brain fog, lack of concentration and sleeplessness.
The ancient and continuous developed practice of acupuncture is one of many traditional medicines which at its core, aims to prevent disease. There is a growing and increasingly convincing body of evidence showing that acupuncture, together with movement such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong, can balance our immune systems. The emphasis is indeed on the word ‘balance’, which is specifically important in the context of Covid-19 where the immune system in some severely ill people causes a so-called ‘cytokine storm’, this overreaction of the immune system can and has led to patient deaths. An increasing number of studies show that acupuncture can modulate the immune system and in addition, has an anti-inflammatory action, particularly useful in cases of patients suffering from symptoms caused by the coronavirus. (Arranz 2007; Karst 2003; Karst 2010; Silvério-Lopes 2013; Pais 2014; Pavão 2010; Takahashi 2009; Wu 2016). These studies show that the levels of immune biomarkers, such as T-lymphocytes (CD3+, CD4+), NK cells, interleukins (for example IL8, IL17, IL2, IL 10) and macrophages change in an immune enhancing fashion. In other words, the studies have shown clear evidence that acupuncture increases the body’s ability to fight infections, while at the same time calming the body’s occasional but very detrimental tendency to overreact. In addition to these directly measurable markers, scientific studies have shown that acupuncture reduces chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and stress. It has been proven that these debilitating states of dis-ease have a clear and detrimental impact on our immune system. (MacPherson 2013; Hopton 2014; Smith 2018; Amorim 2018; Goyata 2016; Grant 2018; Chung 2018; Yin 2017)
As symptoms vary in type, intensity and duration, some people may not get the recognition and treatment they need, which will affect their mental as well as physical health. This applies particularly for non-hospitalised patients, who did not have severe respiratory problems and are assumed to have only a mild version of the disease that will clear up in a couple of weeks. (Mahase 2020)
In Traditional Acupuncture patients with multiple, chronic symptoms are treated using a holistic approach, helping to support their own self-healing capabilities to provide better sustained, overall improvement. This approach includes the positive effects on the immune system and inflammatory processes discussed above, which in turn may play a part in treating long Covid, just as they can in preventing infection. Treating people with long Covid to boost people’s resistance to future infection is a major goal for acupuncture in respect of Covid-19.
We are now starting to collect data measuring the effect of acupuncture on long Covid, although it is still too early for any results from clinical trials, we have already seen promising outcomes from individual cases treated by fellow members of the British Acupuncture Council. Many of the common symptoms seen with long Covid have been shown to respond to acupuncture in other contexts such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, COPD, heart arrhythmias and nausea.
Some GPs and physiotherapists are now referring their patients to Acupuncturists since they recognise the benefits of holistic acupuncture treatment. If you are struggling with long Covid and are looking for help call me, Sherrie, on 07967 275502 or visit my website at www.VitalityGardenAcupuncture.com.