Asthma, an inflammatory disease that impacts the airways to the lungs, affects approximately 25 million Americans. When airway linings swell and the surrounding muscles constrict, mucus can enter the airways and make it difficult for air to pass through. This can lead to common asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Several underlying conditions may cause asthma, and Western medicine often addresses asthma symptoms through breathing exercises, fast-acting treatments, or long-term medications. However, preliminary research indicates that acupuncture therapy may enhance the effectiveness of conventional asthma treatments, providing much-needed and lasting relief from common asthma symptoms.
Understanding the Different Types of Asthma
Many different types of asthma exist. Allergic asthma occurs when common allergens like dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, and certain foods trigger asthma symptoms. Nonallergic asthma, also called intrinsic asthma, involves other irritants, such as burning wood, air pollution, perfumes, or household cleaning products, that generate an asthmatic reaction. In addition, people who work in the farming, textile, woodworking, or manufacturing industries may develop occupational asthma from exposure to dust, industrial chemicals, or other harsh substances. Depending on the frequency and severity of your symptoms, your asthma may be classified as intermittent, mildly persistent, moderately persistent, or severely persistent. Although no one cause has been determined to cause asthma, researchers posit that genetics, history of viral infections, and low exposure to bacteria during early childhood may play a role.
In young children and infants, asthma is often linked to food allergies and eczema, a phenomenon known as the “allergic triad.” Western medicine is just beginning to understand the physiological linkage of the skin, lungs, and immune response. Chinese Five Element acupuncture theory has for centuries associated both the lungs and skin with the Metal Element.
How Western Medicine Approaches Asthma
Western medical professionals typically look at a person’s age, triggers, and type of asthma to determine the most effective treatment plan. For example, breathing exercises can help to increase lung capacity and minimize severe symptoms. Other people may carry bronchodilators (inhalers or nebulizers) that they can use at the first sign of an asthma attack, relaxing the constricted muscles and making it easier to breathe. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe a daily medication to manage specific symptoms. However, many of these medications, like anti-inflammatories and anticholinergics, come with unwanted side effects, such as headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Acupuncture May Enhance Conventional Asthma Treatments
While more comprehensive clinical research on acupuncture’s role in treating asthma symptoms is needed, existing studies point to its efficacy in relieving allergic asthma. According to a 2017 study, individuals with allergic asthma who received acupuncture treatment in addition to conventional therapies experienced an “increased disease-specific and health-related quality of life” when compared to those who only received traditional care. Additionally, a review and meta-analysis published in 2019 concluded that “conventional treatments plus acupuncture are associated with significant benefits for adult and adolescent patients with asthma.” Another study examined acupuncture’s impact on reducing airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and inflammation in mice, concluding that acupuncture significantly inhibited AHR and inflammation in these subjects. Although more research is needed to understand the relationship between acupuncture and asthma fully, the existing literature indicates that acupuncture can reduce and relieve asthma symptoms.
Inner Works Acupuncture provides Portland clients with personalized acupuncture treatment plans. Call (503) 227-2127 today to schedule an appointment.