Many people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis turn to alternative therapies such as acupuncture for relief, either alone or alongside more traditional treatments.
This may be because medications seem ineffective or have unpleasant side effects, or just because they want to reduce their reliance on medication and have more control over their treatment.
If you suffer from one of these conditions, you may want to give acupuncture a try. It’s a very safe therapy with low risk of side effects. Many people feel that it helps to improve their symptoms.
Acupuncture can be used alongside any other treatments and medications. Keep in mind, you should never stop taking any medicines you’ve been prescribed without talking to your doctor first.
What Respiratory Conditions Can Be Treated with Acupuncture?
You don’t have to be diagnosed with a specific respiratory condition to benefit from acupuncture. Even if you have acupuncture for a different health concern, you may well find that it improves your breathing or allergy symptoms. However, the main respiratory conditions that people seek acupuncture therapy for include asthma, sinusitis and bronchitis.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that is thought to affect around 300 million people worldwide. Asthma can be controlled, rather than cured, with medications but it still claims lives every year – 455 Australians died in 2016 due to asthma.
People suffering from asthma have thickened airways so there is less space to breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest. It may be triggered by smoke, allergies, respiratory infections, and exercise.
The symptoms of asthma often first appear in childhood but adults can also develop asthma.
Acupuncture is a popular preventative therapy often used in conjunction with medication. As acupuncture reduces inflammation, it helps directly to open up the airways. Studies have shown that regular treatment can help to reduce symptoms and improve overall health and quality of life.
Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses – the bony cavities that connect to the nasal passageways.
Both the nose and sinuses are lined with a membrane that allows air to flow and mucous to drain from the sinuses into the nose.
When the sinus membranes are inflamed, the mucus is not able to drain freely. This leads to a build-up of pressure in the sinuses, causing pain.
The main symptoms of sinusitis are a blocked nose with thick green discharge and headaches and pain around the nose, eyes, and jaw (sometimes feeling like a toothache).
Sinusitis is a common side effect of bacterial infections caused by cold and flu. It can also be triggered by allergies or from inhaling chemical fumes. When it occurs following a respiratory infection, it usually only lasts a few weeks until the infection clears up. If due to allergy or other reasons, it may go on for several months. Acupuncture is thought to be particularly helpful in these chronic cases.
Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes – the small airways that carry air to the lungs.
The bronchial tubes normally have a coating of mucus to trap dust and other irritants but when an infection causes inflammation in the bronchial tubes, they produce more mucus than normal.
Bronchitis is often caused by a virus. It may be made worse by breathing in cigarette smoke and other contaminants. The condition usually clears up after a few weeks but chronic bronchitis can continue for several months or even years.
People who suffer from asthma are also more likely to develop bronchitis.
A chesty cough is the main symptom of bronchitis as your body tries to expel the excess mucus. You may also have a sore throat, headache, runny nose, and feel generally run down and tired.
A study carried out in China found that elderly patients suffering from chronic bronchitis responded well to acupuncture and had fewer symptoms than those treated with a herbal cough syrup
How Does Acupuncture for Respiratory Conditions Work?
Acupuncture can help with both the symptoms of respiratory conditions and the root cause behind the symptoms.
As acupuncture helps to stimulate blood flow, it helps the lungs do their job of sending oxygen around the body via the bloodstream. This also boosts the immune system, helping the body to activate its own self-healing mechanisms.
Acupuncture also triggers an anti-inflammatory response in the body, which helps to relax muscles and improve breathing. As the therapy is very relaxing, it will help you to breathe deeper both during the treatment and for several hours afterwards.
Some acupuncture patients experience instant relief after a session (this is particularly true in the case of sinusitis, as the increased blood flow can help to clear congestion quickly). In other cases, you might need several acupuncture sessions spread over months to maximise the benefits of treatment.
What Other Steps Can You Take to Reduce Symptoms?
Diet is also known to have a significant effect on respiratory conditions, especially if you suffer from breathing problems triggered by an allergy.
Try keeping a food diary and you may start to notice if certain foods make your symptoms worse.
In traditional Chinese medicine, chilli, lamb, ginger, shellfish, and deep-fried foods should be avoided if you have respiratory problems. Pears, green leafy vegetables, cucumber, eggplant, lemons, honey, and white fungi may help to relieve symptoms (avoid lemons if you suffer from reflux).
For more advice on complementary therapies for reducing respiratory condition symptoms, or to book an acupuncture session, contact Liz Langton on 0417 704 367