November 01, 2016

Chiropractic Nasal Balloon Procedure to Treat Sinuses, TMJ, Concussion, etc

Screen shot from YouTube
A patient recently came to my office complaining of chronic sinusitis that has been treated over the past year unsuccessfully by a chiropractor using a "balloon that is inserted into the nose and inflated several times."

Curious about this interesting technique, I investigated further what and how allegedly this procedure works. It is called "Nasal Release" or "Neuro Cranial Restructuring" or "Endo-Nasal Cranial Facial Release" and is performed by chiropractors or naturopaths to purportedly treat deviated septum, chronic sinusitis, snoring, crooked teeth, crossed eyes, traumatic brain injuries, migraines, low back pain, TMJ, tinnitus, and neck pain.

More fringe practitioners will also claim it can help treat Alzheimer's, anxiety, arthritis, bursitis, rheumatism, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Down's Syndrome, dystonia, deafness, glaucoma, double vision, insomnia, low energy, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, muscle spasms, bruxism, osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, tremors, phobias, poor concentration, relationship difficulties, sciatica, kyphosis (hunchback), lordosis (swayback), scoliosis (spiral spine), seizures, sleep apnea, strokes, vertigo, whiplash syndrome, and wrinkles (replaces a face lift).

This release begins by inserting a small tampon shaped balloon into the nose and transiently inflating for 1-3 seconds. This is done 3 times on each side. What practitioners claim they are doing is placing the balloon into the concha (or turbinate). Inflating the balloon causes outward pressure within the concha thereby creating a space where the bones are pinched against each other. It also "unlocks" the skull's membranes and suture lines thereby allowing it to become more mobile and flexible as well as improve circulation of blood and brain fluid. Patients often report hearing/feeling a pop when the balloon is inflated.

Watch some YouTube videos below demonstrating how this technique is performed.

From an ENT perspective, there is no scientific evidence that this technique works... other than to perhaps open up the nasal passages to some degree by manually lateralizing the mucosa of the inferior turbinate. It perhaps may manually mimic something a nasal spray like Afrin can do. Of course, any improvement that occurs is temporary and symptoms will typically return within a few days.

The "pop" that patients feels is either when the mucosa separates from each other or when the inferior turbinate bone cracks with forced movement from balloon inflation.

Nasal balloon release is also NOT the same thing as balloon sinuplasty that ENTs perform. Read here for more info about balloon sinuplasty.

Now, ENTs do perform nasal balloon packing for severe nosebleeds. You can watch a video of this procedure here.

Furthermore, there are potential dangers with this technique the way it is performed. A 2003 report described a septal fracture requiring surgical repair after nasal release. Furthermore nosebleeds is not uncommon after this procedure.

A complication from neurocranial restructuring: nasal septum fracture. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003 Apr;129(4):472-4.

Balloon Nasal Packing for Severe Nosebleeds:

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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