Is Medicine the Only Option for Asthma?
By: Emily James
February 5, 2018
Imagine having to use an inhaler every time before playing a sport or after walking up a couple flights of stairs to stop yourself from wheezing like a dying walrus. There are hundreds of millions of people who deal with this every day (1). This prevalent ailment is known as asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory system (1). Wheezing is the primary symptom of this recurrent disease, caused by the inflammation and thickening of the bronchial tube walls. The bronchial tubes are the two airways that deliver air to the lungs (1). When these airways are inflamed, air has difficulty passing through them, resulting in wheezing and shortness of breath. The inflammation can be caused by many triggers such as physical activity, allergies, climate changes, strong emotional responses, and environmental pollutants. In order to prevent the onset of asthma symptoms or an asthma attack, asthmatics can be prescribed a variety of medications. Typically, an asthmatic will be given a “quick-relief” medication, but if they play a sport or find that their asthma is easily triggered, they may also be prescribed a “long-term control” medication. However, sometimes these medications do not completely resolve symptoms, leading people to seek other treatments besides prescription drugs.
Physiotherapy is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on movement and involves the use of exercise and manual therapy to help people with illnesses, injuries, and disabilities. It has proven to be effective in treating chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. A study performed by P. Bergqvis and O. Löwhagen tested the Lotorp method on patients who had been diagnosed with asthma and prescribed medication to manage their symptoms. The method consists of massaging the muscles of the chest as well as teaching the patients proper breathing techniques (2). Improper breathing can include shallow and swift breaths, which is common in asthmatics due to restricted airways. The goal of this treatment is to address the shallow breathing in addition to reducing inflammation (2). The results of the study showed that the physiotherapy treatment increased the volume of air the patients were inhaling and exhaling . The maximum point to which each patient’s chest could expand during respiration was also measured before and after the physiotherapy treatments (2). These measurements increased over the course of the six weeks during which the study took place (2). Wheezing, shortness of breath, and other asthma symptoms were better managed by the patients because of these changes that the treatments made (2).
When you think of asthma, most of the time you think of the inhalers that one of your teammates had to use right before the big game. You don’t always think of the possible alternative medicine practices that may be out there that could benefit your health in the long run.
The information provided is intended for factual purposes only, not to suggest or provide medical advice to you, the reader. Consult a medical professional with further questions or concerns regarding the information listed.
(1) Asthma. Physiopedia. Mackey C, Hunter C, Dokhnan S, Lowe R, Thomas E. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Asthma (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Accessed September 15, 2017.
(2) Löwhagen O, Bergqvist P. Physiotherapy in asthma using the new Lotorp method. Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice [serial online]. November 2014;20(4):276-279. Available from: MEDLINE Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 25, 2017.