By Sara Calabro
‘Tis the season for post-nasal drip. Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Post-nasal drip occurs when the normal mucus that’s produced in the nasal passages fails to transform and move as it should. Either it’s too thick or something, such as throat swelling, obstructs its movement. In either case, the mucus cannot flow normally, which causes it to accumulate in the back of the nose and drip down the throat.
Since post-nasal drip is caused by faulty flow rather than a foreign invader vulnerable to antihistamines—which, by the way, can actually make the problem worse because they dry out the nasal passages, further thickening mucus—acupuncture and acupressure are effective remedies.
Acupuncture and acupressure eliminate the underlying causes of symptoms by restoring flow. This enables physiological processes to occur normally. In the case of post-nasal drip, there is a specific acupuncture point that transforms mucus so that it moves easily throughout the body.
The go-to acupuncture point for mucus
Perhaps the best-known acupuncture point for transforming mucus is Stomach 40. This popular acupuncture point is located on the outer lower leg, about halfway between the knee and ankle (see picture at right).
Stomach 40 is primarily used for clearing out mucus—more commonly referred to by acupuncturists as phlegm or dampness—especially in the upper body. Since the Stomach meridian on which the point falls goes directly over the chest, throat and nasal area, the point’s dampness-reducing effects address those areas. Acupuncturists choose Stomach 40 for people who have post-nasal drip as well as phlegmy coughs, fullness or heaviness in the chest, throat swelling and difficulty swallowing.
In between acupuncture visits, you can perform acupressure on Stomach 40 yourself to relieve post-nasal drip.
Self-acupressure on Stomach 40 is handy if you, like many people, are most affected by post-nasal drip at night. When lying in bed, turn onto your side and bend your knee so that you can reach your lower leg. You should be able to access the point from this angle.
I’ve found that self-acupressure on this point is easiest to do with the thumb on the same side of whichever Stomach 40 you’re pressing (see picture at left). Experiment with it to determine which finger feels most comfortable to you. You can also experiment with pressing Stomach 40 on each leg to see if one produces better results than the other, or you can press both right and left Stomach 40 simultaneously.
More self-care tips for post-nasal drip
In addition to performing acupressure on Stomach 40, here are some other simple self-care techniques for alleviating post-nasal drip:Drink more water
When post-nasal drip acts up, make sure to stay hydrated. This helps to loosen and thin the mucus. Add at least an extra eight ounces of water to your daily regimen. If you can do more, even better. And make sure the water’s not too cold. The goal is to keep things flowing in there, so avoid ice and refrigerated water and instead suck it down lukewarm.Prop your head
Many people are most affected by post-nasal drip at night. Often this is because, when we lay our heads down to sleep, the mucus in our nasal passages drains backward and can start pooling in the throat. To avoid this, try propping your head slightly with an extra pillow.Get a humidifier
Dryness is one of the primary contributors to post-nasal drip. It’s why so many of us get it during the cold and dry winter months. If you notice dryness activating your post-nasal drip, try using a humidifier to add some moisture to the air in your home. If your post-nasal drip is bad at night, run it when you’re sleeping.Use a neti pot
Neti pots naturally clear the nasal passages. To improve compliance with your neti pot, keep it in the shower. This way, it becomes part of your daily routine. When you wash the rest of your body, give your nasal passages a rinse as well. Shower neti-ing also creates less mess than attempting to do it over the sink.
Wishing you a drip-free winter.
Photo by Sara Calabro; ST 40 infographic from A Manual of Acupuncture
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