Acupuncture for asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects the respiratory system, causing inflammation of the airways. It often starts in childhood and can affect both children and adults long-term. Common asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and an allergy cough that is often more pronounced in the morning and evening. Allergy triggers like dust mites and ragweed can cause asthma symptoms to flare up, as well as changes in temperature, strong aerobic exercise, and viral respiratory infections. Asthma attacks can be frightening, causing chest pain, coughing, wheezing, and a feeling of drowning.

Conventional medicine manages asthma attacks due to seasonal allergies with inhalers, corticosteroids, and antihistamines. While these medications can help relieve hay fever symptoms and prevent asthma attacks, they do not address the immune system imbalances that are the root cause of asthma and allergies. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been clinically shown to help reduce symptoms and improve the overall quality of life when used in conjunction with conventional medical therapy.

Asthma may never go away completely, but it can be managed so effectively that it no longer has a negative impact on your life. Symptoms of asthma include coughing frequently, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and chest tightness. Nocturnal asthma, where symptoms worsen at night, can affect sleep quality. To diagnose asthma, a doctor may perform lung function tests using a spirometer, allergy testing, and an x-ray to determine the cause of lung damage.

According to TCM theory, asthma is a result of energy imbalances or deficiencies in the lungs and kidneys, causing excess wind and phlegm to get trapped in the airways. Acupuncture treatment focuses on strengthening the kidneys and lungs and clearing phlegm and wind from the system. Studies have shown that acupuncture treatment can reduce respiratory resistance and significantly reduce symptoms and medication needs in children with asthma.

Why is asthma worse at night?

The precise reason for the increase in asthma symptoms during the night, known as “nocturnal asthma,” has not been medically proven, but it is probably due to a combination of factors:

  • The cooler air entering the bronchial passages
  • Increase of allergens like pollen in the air
  • Exposure to dust mites or pet dander in the bed
  • Reclining the sleep position makes it harder to breathe
  • Hormone secretions that occur during sleep

Nighttime asthma can really affect your ability to get enough quality sleep. 

Asthma affects the lungs and bronchial tubes.

Many of the symptoms of asthma are similar to those of an allergic reaction. However, seasonal allergies usually also cause symptoms like head congestion, runny nose, itching inside the mouth, throat, and ears, sinus pain, and postnasal drip. Asthma doesn’t cause these sorts of upper respiratory symptoms because it is a condition of the lungs and bronchial tubes. 

In order to make a definitive diagnosis of asthma, a doctor will usually perform tests that determine your lung function. A spirometer is a tool that helps determine how much air you are able to inhale and exhale. If you are able to inhale better after being given medication from an inhaler, then it will be concluded that you probably have asthma. An x-ray can show whether the bronchial tubes are blocked and determine whether there might be some other cause for lung damage, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. Often people will also be given allergy testing to determine what triggers may affect their breathing.

Can Acupuncture Help Asthma?

According to TCM theory, the lungs control inhaling, while the kidneys control exhaling. Lung Qi (energy) should move downward, while Liver Qi should move upward, and these energies work in harmony. Asthma is the result of one or all of these energies entering into a state of imbalance or deficiency. Excess wind and/or phlegm get trapped in the lungs and airways, creating obstructions and producing the wheezing and shortness of breath associated with asthma. Acupuncture treatment focuses largely on strengthening the kidneys and lungs, and clearing phlegm and wind from the system.

Many studies determined that acupuncture treatment reduced “respiratory resistance,” helping to open up the bronchial tubes.

Asthma attacks are genuinely frightening, and when severe, can even be life-threatening. It is important that people with asthma have emergency inhalant medications to help them in the event of a serious asthma attack. However, the regular use of steroid medications comes with other risks. Corticosteroids can suppress normal immune function, affect the adrenal hormones, and actually increase inflammation. These unwanted side effects may be especially concerning for young children with asthma. Chinese herbs offer a safe alternative to steroids, having been used for thousands of years with no negative side effects. Herbal supplementation is also a crucial component of TCM treatment for asthma and allergies. Research has shown that classic TCM herbal formulations for asthma provide many therapeutic benefits, including reducing hyperreactivity in the bronchial tubes, reducing inflammation of the lungs and tubes, and calming muscle contractions around the airways. One study specifically focused on children with asthma concluded that patients who were given a specific TCM herb combination showed significant improvement over a 12-week period when compared to a control group of children who received a placebo instead.

Nighttime asthma can really affect your ability to get enough quality sleep.