What Are the Benefits of Acupuncture for Asthma?

Paul Cartmell

Asthma is a long-term condition affecting people of all ages that is traditionally treated with medications to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture is often referred to as an alternative treatment used to accompany the use of traditional medications and allows a reduction in the dosage of medicines prescribed for asthma and other breathing difficulties. The use of acupuncture is reported in some studies to reduce the occurrence of asthma symptoms in children and adults.

An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

Acupuncture treatments stimulate the energy flowing through the human body along known paths through the insertion of long, thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Symptoms of asthma that are alleviated with acupuncture include the inflammation of the airways traveling to the lungs and the narrowing of the same airways. Electrical stimulation is often included in acupuncture for asthma treatments to increase the movement of the energy through the body.

Acupuncture is sometimes helpful.
Acupuncture is sometimes helpful.

Needles are usually inserted in the areas at the front and back of the ribcage and into the hands during treatments. The areas associated with acupuncture for asthma treatments are the kidney and stomach energy paths that pass over the chest and the lung pathways at various points over the arms and torso. Stimulation is also applied to the points affecting the working of the bladder because this is believed to have a positive effect on every major organ in the human body.

In 1979, the World Health Organization included asthma and bronchitis on its list of medical conditions that could have their symptoms aided by acupuncture. Medical studies show varying results in the use of acupuncture for asthma symptoms, however, with some researchers in countries including the U.S. and Canada arguing that the treatment has little or no visible benefit for patients. Other studies show that the therapies can reduce the occurrence of asthma symptoms. Researchers from the University Hospital of Vienna reported that 70% of asthma patients reported a reduction in the symptoms of asthma following a ten-week course of acupuncture for asthma.

Concerns are often raised over the use of high-dosage medications to treat the symptoms of asthma for a prolonged period of time. Many people attempt to reduce the use of medication and the negative side effects that may occur after long-term use by using acupuncture treatments. Historical documents relating to acupuncture for asthma treatments by ancient Chinese doctors recommend that treatments be administered every day or every other day to maintain relief from breathing difficulties.

Needles are placed in the hands during acupuncture treatments for asthma.
Needles are placed in the hands during acupuncture treatments for asthma.

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