Asthma is a chronic health condition that affects two million Australians, and unfortunately this number is increasing everyday. Caring for a long-term condition such as asthma can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it can be managed. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be powerful allies in the treatment of asthma, and they work well in conjunction with other types of treatment. Read on to find out how TCM can help you if you or a loved one is living with asthma.
Facts about asthma
Asthma is an inflammatory disease whereby the airways become narrowed or blocked, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Some people have long periods without symptoms, while others may always experience difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks occur when something triggers the inflammation of the respiratory system. Flare ups can be severe - sometimes even life-threatening.
Asthma attacks are generally caused by one or more triggers, such as:
- A cold, flu, sinus infection, or bronchitis
- Allergens, e.g. dust mites, pollen, mould, animal dander
- Airway irritants e.g. cigarette smoke, strong fragrances, air pollution
- Foods and food additives
- Medications, e.g. aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs
- Strenuous exercise
- Changes in the weather
- Strong emotions such as stress, anxiety, anger and grief
Generally, the conventional approach to asthma treatment is to try and prevent attacks. This is typically done with regular use of anti-inflammatory medications, inhaled steroids and leukotriene inhibitors. During an actual asthma attack, quick-acting medications like corticosteroids may be able to relieve it.
Most of these medications can cause side effects such as nausea, muscle tremors, headaches and insomnia. However, many people have found that acupuncture treatment can help reduce asthma attacks, improve lung function, and even lower the amount of medication needed.
A wholistic treatment
Asthma, according to ancient principles in TCM, is known as “Xiao Chuan,” which means “wheezing” and “shortness of breath.” Asthma is caused by a variety of factors that involve an imbalance with Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”), and an imbalance with one or more of the organ systems, generally the Lungs, Spleen or Kidney.
An acupuncturist will take a wholistic, or whole-body approach in order to determine what areas of the body are affected and out-of-balance and contributing to the attacks. Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist may discover and treat.
- Invasion of Wind
- Lung weakness
- Kidney weakness
- Spleen weakness
- Liver imbalance
- Liver Heat
- Wei Qi deficiency
- Phlegm/damp in the Lungs
Therefore two people receiving TCM treatment for asthma may receive completely different treatments that are tailored to their individual TCM diagnosis. Since acupuncture and TCM take into account your overall well being, your practitioner may also address other issues that may be contributing to your asthma, such as exercise, diet and stress. Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and pain-free approach to many conditions, and you may find that your overall health improves along with your asthma symptoms.
It is important to remember that you are a key part of controlling your asthma. Here are a few ways you can take an active part in your treatment:
- Try keeping an asthma diary to track your specific asthma triggers.
- Be sure to keep all of your health care providers fully informed. This includes talking to them about any medications or herbs you may be taking, as well as any changes in your symptoms.
- Follow your practitioner’s recommendations for self-care. These might include exercises such as Qi Gong, yoga, dietary changes, or stress- relief measures such as meditation.
- Download and use the "Self help tips for asthma" worksheet published in a previous blog post.
By making positive lifestyle choices and working closely with your practitioner, you’ll truly be taking charge of your asthma—and your life. Contact us for any extra information and to see how we can help you.
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