Judy Bowen-Jones

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.

People with COPD have trouble breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways. This is called airflow obstruction. Typical symptoms of COPD include: increasing breathlessness when active, a persistent cough with phlegm and frequent chest infections. The difference between COPD and asthma is that, in asthma the airflow obstruction is reversible. In COPD the obstruction is largely irreversible.

About COPD

The main cause of COPD is smoking. The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you’ve been smoking. This is because smoking irritates and inflames the lungs, which results in scarring. Over many years, the inflammation leads to permanent changes in the lung. The walls of the airways thicken and more mucus is produced. Damage to the delicate walls of the air sacs in the lungs causes emphysema and the lungs lose their normal elasticity. The smaller airways also become scarred and narrowed. These changes cause the symptoms of breathlessness, cough and phlegm associated with COPD. Rarely, cases of COPD are caused by fumes, dust, air pollution and genetic disorders.

Stopping smoking is the most effective way for people with COPD to reduce the rate of decline in lung function (NHS 2015)


Research suggests that acupuncture may be a useful adjunct to standard medical care for COPD by reducing inflammation, helping clear mucus and regulating our immune response.

From a biomedical viewpoint, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, influencing the production of our body’s communication substances – hormones and neurotransmitters. The resulting biochemical changes stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities thereby promoting physical and emotional wellbeing. Acupuncture can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with COPD.

Treating COPD

“Unlike asthma, in COPD the lung damage is not reversible. Stopping smoking in the early stages of disease can make a big difference and is the most effective way for those with COPD to slow the rate of decline in lung function. Acupuncture, alongside conventional medicine, can help provide some relief from symptoms of COPD. Ear and body acupuncture may also help you quit smoking.”

Research Fact Sheets

For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.