Asthma is the inflammation of the bronchi – the airways that connect the lungs to the outside world. Its cause is the result of a complex interplay between genetics & environmental factors. It can present both acute or chronically, and when it does a person has trouble breathing with wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing. Asthma should not be mistaken for bronchitis, which is inflammation from an infection working its way into the airway passages, or COPD, which is a progressive decline in lung function due to multiple co-existing problems. Typically, people with asthma are more likely to have allergies, and are also likely to have asthma attacks in an environment with a lot of airborne allergens – pollen, dander, air pollutants, and so on. The severity and duration of asthma attacks appears to be based on the genetics of the person and is not entirely understood.
Standard treatment for asthma is avoidance of common triggers, use of a medicated inhaler for short-term symptom relief, and steroids for moderate to severe cases.
Now, what can acupuncture do for asthma?
Most importantly – acupuncture is not an emergency treatment. A person in the middle of an attack having trouble breathing should be using their inhaler or calling 911.
What acupuncture can do, however, is help with long-term symptom management, immune system regulation, and increasing lung & diaphragm strength (specifically peak expiratory flow rate). Helping to regulate a person’s overall immune system response will reduce the intensity and frequency of asthma attacks by strengthening the body against triggers and preventing the onset of inflammation. Increasing the strength of breathing will also reduce attacks, and can potentially reduce the use of steroid medications for those on them. People who want to use acupuncture for their asthma can expect to come for a regular course of treatment at the outset and then will switch to a maintenance schedule (typically 1-2 treatments a month) once the frequency of asthma attacks are managed.
Also notable is that while asthma is not the same as bronchitis & COPD, the effects of acupuncture are effective for all three conditions. Your acupuncturist will still need to distinguish between all three cases and adjust treatment accordingly. And of course, any trouble breathing as a result of an infection should be something you discuss with your MD as well.
If you know someone looking for relief from poorly managed asthma, there are options available. Consider acupuncture today.