Can Acupuncture Relieve Asthma Symptoms?
Asthma flare-ups can happen even if you faithfully use your inhaler or asthma medication. Fortunately, acupuncture may help control wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and other asthma symptoms.
How Asthma Affects Your Lungs
During an asthma flare-up, the small airways in your lungs became inflamed, swelling and producing more mucus than normal. These changes restrict the amount of air that reaches your lungs. At the same time, the muscles around the airways get tighter, making it even harder to breathe. When these changes happen, you may experience:
- Wheezing, Particularly When Breathing Out
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest Tightness
- Difficulty Sleeping
It's not unusual to feel tired during an asthma attack, as your lungs must work much harder than normal to circulate oxygen in and out of the lungs. Asthma is a reversible type of lung disease. Once the flare-up ends, inflammation and swelling in the airways decrease.
Acupuncture Could Improve Your Symptoms
Whether you have mild, moderate, or severe asthma, keeping your symptoms under control is crucial. Acupuncture treatments, in addition to the oral medication or inhalers your doctor prescribes, can help reduce your symptoms.
Acupuncture treatments balance Qi, a life force that flows through your body and helps you stay healthy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, wheezing and other symptoms occur when lung and liver Qi become imbalanced. Acupuncture treatments keep Qi flowing and prevent blockages that could cause imbalances and contribute to flare-ups.
Treatments offer several important benefits for asthma, including:
- Reduced Inflammation. Although inflammation decreases after a flare-up, your airways may remain slightly swollen, according to the American Lung Association. The swelling increases airway sensitivity, which makes the airways more likely to become inflamed if you're exposed to pollution, strong odors, allergens, or other asthma triggers. Acupuncture reduces inflammation and may decrease the number of flare-ups you experience. In a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Immunology, researchers noted that acupuncture treatments could decrease inflammation in the respiratory system by regulating cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that help keep inflammation under control.
- Shorter Respiratory Illnesses. Colds, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses make asthma symptoms even worse. According to UpToDate, respiratory viruses are the most common reason for asthma flare-ups in both kids and adults. Acupuncture may reduce the duration of a cold and ease cold symptoms. In a South Korean case study, ninety-five percent of people who received acupuncture within 36 hours of noticing cold symptoms felt better three days later. Since colds normally last 7 to 10 days, that's quite an improvement.
- Relaxed Muscles. Although acupuncture is often touted as a way to ease joint and muscle pain, it's just as effective as relieving muscle tension anywhere in the body, including the respiratory system. Acupuncture loosens and relaxes the muscles around your airways, which helps you breathe easier.
- Less Stress. Have you noticed that your asthma bothers you more when you're upset or stressed? Stress, a common asthma trigger, can be controlled with acupuncture. Treatments decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing the production of hormones that help you feel calm and happy. Acupuncture may also improve the way your brain reacts to stress, which might reduce your risk of future flare-ups.
- Fewer Flare-Ups. Regular visits to your acupuncturist could reduce the number of asthma attacks you get. A systematic review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine noted that acupuncture treatments may decrease asthma symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce the severity of flare-ups.
- Decreased Medication Usage. When acupuncture keeps your asthma under control, you may find that you need to use your rescue inhaler less often. In some cases, you might even be able to decrease the dosage of your daily asthma medication. Of course, you'll need to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medications.
Want to keep your asthma symptoms under control? Contact our office to schedule an appointment with the acupuncturist.
American Lung Association: What Is Asthma?
Frontiers in Immunology: The Effect of Acupuncture on Modulating Inflammatory Cytokines in Rodent Animal Models of Respiratory Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 6/15/2022
UpToDate: Role of Viruses in Wheezing and Asthma: An Overview, 6/2023
Science Direct: Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Manual Acupuncture Treatment Attentuates Common Cold and Its Symptoms: A Case Series Reports from South Korea, 12/15/2016
Complementary Therapies in Medicine: Clinical Evidence for Adult Asthma: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Sham/Placebo-Controlled Trials, 8/2023