During the winter cold and flu season or as the seasons change, many of us experience some degree of nasal congestion and sinus pressure. Unfortunately, that pressure can often hang around, long after other signs and symptoms of the cold have disappeared. Recently, I’ve been having excellent results using a combination of myofascial/craniosacral techniques with lymphatic drainage therapy to help open the sinuses and encourage the immune system as clients are recovering from colds.
Although we often think of the sinuses as being just the area of the nasal cavity, there are actually several paired sets of sinus cavities in the skull. The maxillary sinuses, those behind the cheekbones, are the largest, and are the most likely to become inflamed and irritated with colds and allergies. The frontal sinuses are the next largest, in the low-center of the forehead. The smallest pairs are the ethmoid, behind the bridge of the nose, and the sphenoid sinuses, located in the sphenoid bone behind the nasal cavity.
When we have a cold, the membranes lining the nasal passages become inflamed and irritated, producing excess mucus in an attempt to flush out any irritants (this is also what happens when we are exposed to an inhaled allergen). As the volume of mucus increases, of course, we experience increased pressure inside the nasal cavities and the sinuses, leading to headaches, earaches, and other discomfort. Sometimes, the natural drainage and flushing process is inadequate, and the pressure does not resolve on its own – and this is when manual therapy can be very beneficial.
Because the bones of the cranial vault closely interlock with one another, the increased internal pressure associated with nasal congestion can sometimes cause them to ‘stick’ a tiny bit, limiting the natural movement of the bones and inhibiting the normal drainage process.
I have recently seen a number of clients who have been just getting over a cold, but have been unable to shake that last bit of congestion. Some of these clients have had chronic sinus issues, while others have not. In either circumstance, I have found a combination of therapies to be quite effective for these individuals.
First, I use some lymph drainage techniques, primarily to the head and neck. This provides a bit of a boost to the immune system, helping to support the body’s natural processes. Lymph drainage through the area also creates a destination, an empty space to drain to for the excess fluid that is part of the body’s inflammatory response. Then, I incorporate several myofascial and craniosacral therapy techniques that focus on the the areas surrounding the various sinuses, helping the bones to rebalance as well as releasing restrictions that could be inhibiting the natural mucus drainage.
Many of the clients that I have used this combination with have experienced an almost immediate increase in productive drainage, sometimes lasting up to 12 hours later, with little or no rebuilding of pressure or congestion.
If you have been struggling with sinus pressure or nasal congestion after getting over a cold, myofascial and craniosacral therapy could be just what you need to help release those last symptoms.