While my clinic is not seeing active COVID-19 patients in person, one demographic we’ve been seeing and having a lot of success with have been COVID long haulers. A ‘COVID long hauler’, ‘long COVID’ or ‘chronic COVID’ is when symptoms persist beyond the active infection time, these symptoms can persist for weeks to months and risk for long term permanent effects seems to be likely. This presentation has been likened to Lyme’s Disease in that the precipitating factor is a viral infection followed by a chronic presentation of symptoms that range in severity from mild to severely disabling.
Long COVID patients are typically burdened with shortness of breath, difficulty with exertion, dizziness, fatigue that can be extreme, continuation of loss of smell and taste, brain fog and much more. It’s a disheartening condition to watch, because of so many unknown factors there isn’t a lot of help from modern medicine and many patients are simply told to wait it out. Patients go from active healthy individuals to barely being able to get out of bed, this type of condition takes its toll not only on the body but particularly the mind, emotions and spirit. Our work with Long Haulers is to help encourage healing in the body, benefit the Qi - the vital life force of the patient and help patients find their center again in the midst of sometimes devastating circumstances. By helping bring peace and hope back into the healing process we have seen many patients make great strides in their healing.
Surviving Does Not Guarantee Thriving
The most common COVID Long Hauler symptoms are listed below and these symptoms occur at a prevalence of 20-77% of patients who have been infected with SARS-COV-2 after 6 months according to current retrospective research.
Research on long-COVID is ongoing and the mechanisms behind this sequelae of symptoms is becoming more understood. The prevalence of long COVID is incredibly alarming as it occurs at such a high rate within the population and is not necessarily tied to the severity of the acute infection; meaning a patient may have a mild or asymptomatic acute presentation and still suffer from long COVID symptoms. While many people focus on the survival rate being around 98%, this is not the only outcome measure we need to be looking at when we gauge how seriously to take our social distancing and mask wearing precautions and in regard to our choice on vaccination. While most will absolutely survive COVID-19 infections, the potential health concerns with Long COVID are also something that needs to be accounted for in addition to our duties to public health and keeping others besides ourselves safe. (David J Cennimo, 2021)
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs Improve Patient Outcomes in COVID-19
The practice and study of Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbology has been around for centuries, and what is amazing about this medicine is how incredibly individualized it can be - treating each patient’s unique presentation and pattern as opposed to blanket standard treatments. In Traditional Chinese Medicine we have over 45 different diagnoses for the common cold, which is just one illustration of how unique treatment protocols can be based on what symptoms a patient presents with. While SARS-COV-2 may be the virus that infects the patient, the way each patient displays symptoms can be incredibly variable, so depending on your unique presentation we can change how we treat you. This means different acupuncture protocols, different herbs and different lifestyle recommendations depending on how you present in the clinic as an individual.
Following the wake of the SARS 2002 epidemic, Chinese herbalists got to work developing protocols to treat these types of diseases, and when COVID-19 came, they were ready. Many hospitals in China utilize acupuncture and Chinese herbs within the hospital system, which means that patients were able to access typical modern medical treatments and Chinese herbal medicine simultaneously. Our terminology of COVID-19 is called ‘Damp Plague’ which helps illustrate the severity and the path of presentation of the disease and patient presentations will vary within this umbrella diagnosis. There are currently multiple protocols for herbal medicine in the treatment of COVID-19 and these protocols change and adjust as the disease progresses, we have formulas for prevention, mild presentation, severe presenting, severe toxin presentation and then convalescence protocols which are focused on this Chronic COVID pattern.
In one study from Wuhan hospitals that employed the use of Chinese herbs they found that patients who received Chinese herbal medicine had an 82.2% reduction in mortality rate. While this research is still new and had a more limited sample of 156 patients studied in each of the control and herbal medicine groups, it is a significant finding that warrants further studies and implementation. (Chen, et al, Frontiers of Medicine 2020)
How We Can Help You With COVID-19
If you are currently experiencing a COVID19 infection or Long COVID symptoms please book a telemedicine appointment with us. We are not currently seeing active COVID patients in our in-person clinic but we are able to prescribe and ship herbal medicine via telehealth. For COVID Long Haulers if you have cleared your active infection we would love to see you in person or via telehealth. Acupuncture can be a great adjunct treatment to help with your healing process as well as herbal medicine. Our treatment principles for COVID-19 include opening the Lungs, relieving cough, resolving dampness (you can interpret this as mucous or phlegm), detoxifying, tonifying Qi and strengthening the middle burner (most closely linked to the digestive system which helps us create and maintain the Qi of the body. Overall we will take a look at all of the body systems and your current symptoms to help shape our diagnosis and protocols which will be adjusted as you progress over time. While herbal medicine is usually easily accessible it does take a trained professional to understand and work with the nuanced aspects of the herbs, how they work together and how they will work with you as an individual to make a great protocol.
We look forward to ‘seeing’ you soon! Please book a New Patient Herbal Medicine Consultation or a 20 Minute Exploration Call to find out more about how we can help you.
Wishing you health and wellness,
Dr Kim Peirano, DACM, DiplOM, LAc
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.
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