I have previously written about acupuncture for tinnitus and the various research that has looked at acupuncture and tinnitus and this blog is going to look more in depth at the how and why certain acupuncture points are selected in the treatment of tinnitus.
This article will be looking at causes of tinnitus according to traditional Chinese medicine and reviewing which acupuncture meridians are distributed near the ear.
In addition, we look at how the herbal heat treatment of moxibustion is used on the lower back to treat the ears!
Ken Morrison of Radio Kidnappers will also be interviewing me about acupuncture and tinnitus on Tuesday 23rd August so please tune into 1431AM or 104.7FM then.
Acupuncture has been used for many centuries in the treatment of tinnitus and Giovanni Maciocia has a whole chapter devoted to tinnitus in his book, Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine- a comprehensive text. Western medicine has a number factors as possible causes for tinnitus including inner ear cell damage, stiffening of the bones in the middle ear, Meniere’s disease, head and neck injuries. Traditional Chinese medicine has at least ten causes of tinnitus including kidney deficiency, an imbalance of liver energy leading to liver yang rising and phlegm fire invading the liver channel. In addition, there can also be complications involving the heart, liver and lungs contributing to problems with hearing and tinnitus.
The kidneys and tinnitus
Ancient physicians had a saying that the kidneys have the ear as their opening and came about this conclusion because the shape of the ear resembles the shape of the kidney. Aging according to western medicine is a cause of tinnitus which ties in with the traditional Chinese medicine concept that as the kidney ages, it effects its opening , the ear. Many centuries ago, ancient physicians listed tinnitus as one of the symptoms associated with kidney deficiency and hence acupuncturists aim to tonify and strengthen the kidneys to address tinnitus. For example, the kidney meridian point taixi on the inside of the foot is regarded as the source point of the kidneys and has been listed as one of the many acupuncture points for tinnitus for nearly two thousand years.
The liver and tinnitus
Traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis can often be simply broken down into an imbalance between yin and yang and this can also be applied to tinnitus. If the yin or fluid component of the liver becomes weak, the residue excess yang component of the liver can rise upwards. This imbalance in energy often then discharges into the gall bladder meridian which runs up to the ear and causes tinnitus. In cases like this the gall bladder point zulingqi may be selected as it has a traditional recorded use of being used for tinnitus.
Moxibustion and tinnitus
In cases of kidney deficiency, moxibustion is used to warm, tonify and circulate the yang energy. As can be seen in the photo, the herb mugwort in its dried prepared form is placed on acupuncture points on the lower back and lit. A gentle warmth will build up and then it it is taken off well before reaching the skin. This gentle penetrating heat goes into the kidney via accessing the pathway from that point. This point shenshu has had a historical use of being used to treat tinnitus.
Other causes of tinnitus
Maciocia lists in his book phlegm fire, heart and kidney deficiency, heart blood deficiency, lung deficiency, blood deficiency and an acute onset tinnitus dues to catching cold. We ask Alan Jansson, Queensland based traditional acupuncturist specialising in techniques taught to him by Japanese Master Ikeda Sensei, what does he think is the most common cause of tinnitus seen clinically. “Twentieth century lifestyle has definitely had its toll on our kidney energy and hence I see a lot of kidney deficiency related tinnitus in my practise. My clinic is well known for using a lot of ondan on the lower back kidney points” Ondan is specialist technique of using mugwort attached to the ends of the needles.
Please go here for more information about moxibustion.