Judy Bowen-Jones

Acupuncture for Asthma

If you suffer from asthma and related conditions, acupuncture could help.

Asthma is a serious, common long-term condition that can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. It can develop at any age including young children and the elderly. Living with asthma can be physically and emotionally debilitating, especially for a child, who cannot run and play with other children. It is important to speak to your GP if you suspect you or your child may suffer from asthma.

Symptoms of asthma are caused by inflammation and narrowing of the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. In asthma sufferers, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal. Common asthma triggers include house dust mites, animal fur, pollen, cigarette smoke, exercise, viral infections, chemicals and exposure to the cold. Asthma runs in families. Asthma sufferers may also suffer from eczema and allergies.

The reason why some people develop asthma is not fully understood. Consequently, conventional medicine aims to control the symptoms of asthma, usually with inhalers, rather than the underlying condition.

Acupuncture for Asthma

In a Review and Analysis of Controlled Clinical Trials on Acupuncture the World Health Organization (2003) listed bronchial asthma as one of the “conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed”. Clinical studies suggest that acupuncture may be effective for the treatment of asthma and a useful adjunct to standard medical care for asthma, but more research is needed.

Research shows that acupuncture may be effective for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and it is suggested that acupuncture may benefit patients with allergic asthma by regulating immunological reactions to allergens and reducing inflammation – see the British Acupuncture Council Fact Sheet on Acupuncture and Asthma on the right.

In Chinese Medicine it is believed that internal as well as external factors (‘triggers’) are important in understanding asthma and its treatment. Hereditary factors, diet, stress, emotional issues, overwork and fatigue may play a role. It is believed that by treating the underlying problem the external ‘trigger’ will lose its impact (Scott & Barlow 1986).

It is believed that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, influencing the production of the body’s communication substances, such as hormones and neuro-transmitters. These influence the body’s self regulating homeostatic mechanisms and stimulate the body’s own natural healing abilities – thereby promoting physical and emotional wellbeing. Stimulation of acupuncture points on the body has been shown to affect parts of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to stress, as well as promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.

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“In my experience, acupuncture in association with lifestyle changes can help address underlying imbalances and improve wellbeing in asthma patients. Over time, some patients have been able reduce their dependence on their asthma inhalers. It is important to recognise that asthma is a serious condition and you should not make any changes to your medication without consulting your GP”.

Maciocia, G. 2005. The Practice of Chinese Medicine. Asthma. 143-146. Churchill Livingstone

Scott, J. & Barlow, T. 1986. Acupuncture in the Treatment of Children. Eastland Press

World Health Organization 2003. Acupuncture: Review and Analysis on Controlled Clinical Trials – http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/pdf/s4926e/s4926e.pdf

Research Fact Sheets

British Acupuncture Council Fact Sheet on Acupuncture and Asthma

BRIEFING PAPER on Bronchial Asthma and Acupuncture