Try Acupuncture for Hiatal Hernia

Acupuncture and massage works very well for treating hiatal hernia

Hiatal hernia is a condition that produces one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort behind the breastbone (sternum), usually towards the bottom of the chest wall
  • Difficulty swallowing, a feeling that an obstruction in the lower chest wall is making it hard for food to pass through to the stomach
  • Heartburn
  • Chronic burping

Anatomical Considerations

The chest cavity is separated from the abdominal cavity by a large, flat muscle called the diaphragm. The diaphragm sits about halfway down the torso, just below the lower border of the ribcage.

The stomach sits just below the diaphragm, so is technically considered to be in the abdominal cavity. The esophagus (food pipe) sits above the diaphragm, and is therefore considered to be in the thoracic (chest) cavity. Within the diaphragm is a hole, called the esophageal hiatus, that allows the esophagus to travel from the thoracic cavity into the abdominal cavity, where it immediately meets up with the stomach.

A hiatal hernia is when a portion of the top of the stomach slides up through the esophageal hiatus in the diaphragm toward and sometimes into the thoracic cavity. The result is pressure on the walls of the esophagus, which can lead to one or more of the symptoms listed above.

There are several acupuncture points around the sternum

What Causes A Hiatal Hernia?

Some people are born with one. But more commonly, a hiatal hernia is caused by lifestyle factors that weaken the diaphragm and the connective tissue that is in place in and around the esophageal hiatus to help prevent a hernia. Emotional stress, physical stress, lack of adequate rest, being overweight, and smoking cigarettes are the most common lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of a hiatal hernia.

Hiatal Hernia Treatment Options

Symptoms of heartburn that can accompany a hiatal hernia often respond positively to one or more of the following measures:

  1. Avoiding cigarettes.
  2. Avoiding or limiting caffeine intake.
  3. Avoiding alcohol, especially hard liquor.
  4. Not overeating.
  5. Wearing loose, comfortable clothing around the torso.

If these measures don’t lead to substantial improvement, you might consult with your physician about trying the following physical measures:

  1. Apply gentle massage to the uppermost portion of your abdominal cavity. To do this, use your fingers to find the point at which your breastbone (sternum) ends, right where the bottom rib on each side of your chest cavity comes up to meet the breast bone. Place your fingers just below this point, apply downward pressure, and move slowly toward your belly button. You don’t need to travel all the way to your belly button; a few inches below the starting point is adequate. Repeat this simple massage technique several times while you are lying down and physically and emotionally relaxed. You can follow this routine as often as you like until you experience improvement in your symptoms. I recommend most people try this routine two times per day, once in the morning, and once in the evening.
  2. After a relaxation session of at least five minutes during which time you have been lying down, drink a full glass of water. Then, jump to the ground from a height that you are comfortable with – anything ranging from the bottom step of a set of stairs to a sturdy sofa seat or chair. The water is to add some weight to your stomach. Jumping down from a height of a few inches to a few feet is to provide a downward force upon landing that can help the portion of your stomach that has herniated upward to slide back down and away from the esophageal hiatus of your diaphragm.
  3. When you feel warmed up and relaxed (not first thing in the morning, which is prime time for pulling a muscle or ligament), reach up with one arm and hold onto a sturdy ledge that allows your body to hang loosely and your trunk to experience a longitudinal stretch.The best option is a monkey bar or any similar apparatus at a local playground or on some exercise equipment. You could also try the top of a door, but depending on your weight and the strength of the door, hinges, and screws, you may end up damaging your door.The key is to find a solid, overhanging ledge that allows for you to dangle and stretch out your torso. The hope is that stretching in this manner will encourage any protruded portion of your stomach to slide back down into your abdominal cavity.You can try dangling on your right arm for a bit, then your left arm, then both arms. Dangle as long as is comfortable, and try to breathe deeply and steadily to encourage your diaphragm to move up and down over the affected site.

Because the tone and overall health of your digestive tract is very closely connected with your stress levels via your autonomic nervous system, one of the most important treatment considerations for a hiatal hernia is physical and emotional relaxation work. Taking as much time as is needed to address chronic emotional states like frustration, anger, and sadness can be critically important in allowing your digestive tract to experience optimal nerve tone, which can lead to lasting improvement in digestion.