The cause for ganglion cysts from a western medical point of view is still unknown. Theorists have hypothesized that an injury or overuse lead to tissue breakdown in the local area and this debris keeps building up causing a larger and larger lump. This excess tissue then bulges out through the joint capsule. They more commonly occur in the hands and feet. The Mayo Clinic says that there is more chance of a ganglion if there has been an injury to the area and more women get ganglions than men. In the authors personal experience, yoga teachers have an increased tendency for developing ganglions on their wrists as certain postures put increased pressure on the wrist joints.
This post will look at how traditional Chinese medicine views ganglions and the type of acupuncture treatment that is is used on ganglions.
What is inside a ganglion cyst? How is this looked at in terms of traditional Chinese medicine?
When the cysts are drained there is a colourless, odourless, thick,clear and sticky substance. It consists of high-viscosity fluid comprised mainly of hyaluronic acid; with glucosamine, globulins and albumin. These are called phlegm nodules when classified according to traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis. Traditional theories state that phlegm can be in the lungs, muscles, bones and even in the brain. Phlegm can lodge in the joints causing ganglions. In fact classic literature says ” There is no place that phlegm cannot reach“
How is the Spleen involved in the treatment of ganglions?
Traditional Chinese medicine says that the spleen controls the four limbs and symptoms like cold hands and feet for example are due to a weakness in Spleen energy. Practitioners and authors Woitzik and Kissel, used electroacupuncture on the acupuncture zusanli in the treatment on an ankle ganglion. This acupuncture point has the traditional use of tonifying the spleen. Even though this acupuncture point is below the knee and nowhere near the ankle or wrist, it may still be selected to treat ganglions.
What about the acupuncture meridian lines, do they flow through the ganglion area?
Depending on the location and size of the ganglion, there may be more than one meridian that is being affected and blocked. For example, on the wrist may involve the small intestine meridian or a ganglion on the foot may need acupuncture on the Stomach meridian. Often acupuncture points away from the ganglion itself are selected but still on the meridian line that runs through the ganglion.
What about moxibustion? Can that help a ganglion?
We ask Alan Jansson, well known traditional Japanese acupuncturist working in Queensland if moxibustion is used on ganglion treatment. “Firstly let me say that the word acupuncture actually in its traditional language is composed of two characters meaning application of needles and burning of mugwort. So anyone only doing needling to treat a ganglion is doing half the job! There are a number of moxibustion techniques that could be used here ranging from what we call rice grain direct moxibustion or applying larger cones of mugwort directly on the ganglion itself“
If all else fails, the other traditional treatment is to thump the ganglion with a bible.