Conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis fall under a group of progressive lung diseases known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Common symptoms of COPD include coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing. As symptoms worsen, those with COPD can also develop heart problems and more severe respiratory infections. Western physicians treat COPD with medications or even surgery, which often carry risks or unpleasant side effects. However, emerging scientific research indicates that acupuncture and other holistic therapies may provide effective and lasting relief from COPD symptoms.
Causes and Symptoms of COPD
An estimated 30 million Americans have COPD. Individuals over the age of 40 with a history of smoking are more prone to developing COPD. Your risk increases if you have asthma and smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke regularly. Additionally, people may develop COPD from long-term exposure to chemicals and fumes in the workplace or to air pollution or dust inhalation. COPD symptoms tend to be mild at first, with people experiencing occasional shortness of breath or bouts of mild coughing. However, symptoms can worsen quickly, leading to chest tightness, chronic coughing, fatigue, and an overall lack of energy. If left untreated, other complications like cardiovascular issues and chronic respiratory infections may develop.
Western COPD Treatments and Unwanted Side Effects
Western doctors may prescribe medications to reduce COPD symptoms. Inhaled bronchodilators like aclidinium and formoterol may loosen tight muscles in the airways and make breathing easier, but side effects like bladder pain, chest discomfort, and vision problems may occur. Other medications, such as corticosteroids, theophylline, and antibiotics, also carry undesirable side effects. In some cases, doctors may suggest surgery to remove abnormal air spaces from the lungs. However, surgical procedures carry several risks, so those with COPD may wish to explore other options before moving forward with surgery.
Benefits of Acupuncture for COPD Sufferers
Acupuncture treatment may be helpful not only for reducing COPD symptoms (such as breathlessness or dyspnea) but also may contribute to better quality of life, improving endurance and nutritional status. While more robust clinical research is needed, existing and emerging studies show great promise. A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis found that “acupuncture improved breathlessness severity in patients with advanced diseases” (COPD and cancer) and lessened the need for pharmacological intervention. One multicenter, randomized, sham-controlled trial found that patients who received three acupuncture treatments over eight weeks experienced improved breathing and endurance when walking for six minutes compared to those who received sham acupuncture. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials concluded, “acupuncture therapies may result in clinically important improvements in QoL [health related quality of life measures] and dyspnea [breathlessness].”
COPD is a systemic illness that damages health throughout the body, including impacting the digestive system’s ability to utilize nutrients. COPD is often associated with unwanted weight loss and poor nutritional status. A 2018 randomized control trial found that acupuncture can help improve nutritional status and assist with healthy weight gain in COPD patients.
Acupuncture may have even greater benefits for COPD when it is combined with other therapies. A 2021 systematic review found that the combination of acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, and conventional therapy had a greater impact in comparison to any single treatment for COPD.
For those looking for a non-surgical or non-pharmaceutical therapy, acupuncture can be part of a combined approach to managing COPD.
Call the conveniently-located NW Portland office of Inner Works Acupuncture today at (503) 227-2127 to schedule an appointment.