Meniere’s disease is a very disturbing illness, presenting patients with hearing loss, pressure in the ear, tinnitus, severe imbalance and vertigo.
Vertigo is the most dramatic and distressing symptom of Meniere’s; it is described as a sudden loss of normal balance or equilibrium. The room may suddenly begin to spin and rotate at high speed. Focusing is difficult, and if the vertigo continues, nausea and vomiting may occur. Vertigo is commonly caused by acute labyrinthitis (a viral inflammation of the inner ear), benign positional vertigo (a condition due to abnormally floating crystals in the inner ear that stimulate the nerve endings of the inner ear), delayed symptom of head injury, or result of cervical spine problems.
Hearing loss typically fluctuates with hearing being worse some days than others. The hearing loss in Meniere’s may lead to severe permanent hearing loss and deafness in the affected ear.
People with Meniere’s disease report that tinnitus may be variable and often worsen before an attack of vertigo. Tinnitus is often described as a motor-like whirring noise present only in the ear with the hearing loss.
Pressure or senses of fullness in the affected ear are also common.
In my clinical practice, I have worked with a number of patients who were convinced that they had run out of options after finding medications and/or surgery to be ineffective for their needs. Many of these people try acupuncture as a last resort. Based on the experience I have had in working with numerous meniere’s patients, I now firmly believe that acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer effective treatment for Meniere’s disease. Not only does acupuncture treat symptoms but also treat root causes of this illness.
Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, Meniere’s disease falls under the traditional Chinese medical disease category of xuan yun or vertigo and dizziness. It is mostly due to either liver-kidney yin vacuity with ascendant liver yang hyperactivity or spleen-stomach loss of fortification with phlegm turbidity obstructing the center and confounding and misting the clear yang. Bai Hui (GV 20) is located on the midline at the vertex of the head. It is one of the five meetings of the three yang channels of the hands and feet. It is located on the governing vessel, and the governing vessel flows freely or connects with the sea of marrow, i.e., the brain. This point also connects with a network vessel of the liver channel. Therefore, needling it is able to subdue and settle floating yang as well as revitalize the clear yang. Hence it is an effective point for the treatment of vertigo and dizziness. Hou Ding (GV 19) is also a point located on the governing vessel which treats vertigo and dizziness. The technique of joining these two points with a single needle frees the flow and abducts the governing vessel qi and blood. It also quiets the spirit and stabilizes the mind. From a Western medical point of view, it promotes the circulation of blood in the region of the brain and regulates the vegetative nervous system. Ting Gong (SI 19) frees the flow of the orifices and improves the hearing of the ears. Tai Chong (Liv 3) is the source point of the liver, while Xia Xi is the construction point of the gallbladder. Needling these two points can, therefore, level the liver and subdue yang. Nei Guan (Per 6) and Feng Long (St 40) are the network points respectively of the pericardium and stomach. Needling them is able to transform phlegm, harmonize the stomach, and stop vomiting. Tai Xi is the source point of the kidney which enriches water so that it may moisten or sprinkle wood. This point also fosters or helps fill yin essence. Thus this protocol uses a combination of local points with chosen points on the body based on the patient’s pattern discrimination. Such a combination treats both the root and tip or branches of Meniere’s disease and so it gets quite good therapeutic effects.
There are a number of Chinese herbal formulas that are effective for Meniere’s. Here is a brief list of formulas I commonly use in my practice to treat Meniere’s.