Acupuncture for long COVID


Although vaccination in the US and other countries has greatly reduced hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, the effects of what is now formally referred to as long-lasting COVID-19 disease or long COVID is estimated to affect millions of individuals who have previously contracted COVID-19, with symptoms including fatigue, headache, dyspnea, brain fog, migraine, Grave’s disease, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anosmia. Although there are no published randomized clinical trials using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for long COVID, TCM may have its greatest value in resolving symptoms and improving the quality of life of individuals suffering from long COVID symptoms, where it might be used as a stand-alone treatment. If TCM were more integrated into the healthcare system of the United States and demonstrated similar safety and efficacy as the results observed in China, then severe/critical cases and associated mortality we hypothesize would be significantly reduced.


One major health concern of contracting COVID-19 even in fully vaccinated and boosted individuals is long COVID. Its prevalence estimates range from 7.5% to 41% in non-hospitalized adults, 2.3%–53% in mixed adult samples, 37.6% in hospitalized adults, and 2%–3.5% in primarily non-hospitalized children. Preliminary evidence suggests that female sex, age, comorbidities, severity of acute disease and obesity are associated with long COVID. Almost 50% of primary studies reported some degree of long COVID-related social and family-life impairment, long periods away from work, adjusted workloads and loss of employment. This indicates that long COVID will likely have a substantial public health impact, and although few reports of TCM that include acupuncture for long COVID are currently available, the evidence is emerging.


To use acupuncture for long COVID, we need first to identify the pattern according to TCM theory. Once the pattern is determined, some local and remote acupuncture points are selected. According to my personal experience and communication, most of symptoms will be improved in a short period of time after regular acupuncture treatment.


References:


1. Sudre CH, Murray B, Varsavsky T, et al. Attributes and predictors of long COVID. Nat Med. Apr 2021;27(4):626-631. doi:10.1038/s41591-021-01292-y

2. Nittas V, Gao M, West EA, et al. Long COVID Through a Public Health Lens: An Umbrella Review. Public Health Rev. 2022;43:1604501. doi:10.3389/phrs.2022.1604501

3. Gupta M, Gupta N, Esang M. Long COVID in Children and Adolescents. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. Apr 26 2022;24(2)doi:10.4088/PCC.21r03218

4. Umesh A, Pranay K, Pandey RC, Gupta MK. Evidence mapping and review of long-COVID and its underlying pathophysiological mechanism. Infection. Apr 30 2022;doi:10.1007/s15010-022-01835-6

5. Birch S, Alraek T, Grobe S. Reflections on the potential role of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of Covid-19 and subsequent health problems. Integr Med Res. 2021;10:100780. doi:10.1016/j.imr.2021.100780

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