Acupuncture is a treatment that began in China over 3000 years ago. The Western world has embraced it to alleviate issues associated with musculoskeletal disorders, stress, inflammation, and chronic pain. Now researchers believe they have evidence that shows acupuncture can benefit people who suffer from COPD.
How Does It Work?
Acupuncture is an important part of Chinese medicine, which claims that health is the result of a harmonious balance of “yin” and “yang.” They believe this is the life force known as “qi,” and that illness is an imbalance of these forces.
As qi is said to flow through meridians in the human body, it is thought that acupuncture is able to access these energy flows through 350 acupuncture points. Inserting needles into these points on the body is said to bring the energy flow back into proper balance.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a debilitating, progressive disease that makes it very difficult to breath. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Just imagine what it would feel like if the tubes carrying air out of your lungs were blocked. That is what people with COPD live with. Symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease include: chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, and shortness of breath. It can impact everyday tasks like getting dressed, taking a shower, doing housework, or even taking a short walk.
COPD sufferers can be treated with a long list of medications including bronchodilators, corticosteroids, expectorants, various inhibitors, and other medicines. However, some of these patients are looking for alternative pain relief and the latest research gives them hope.
Alternative Pain Relief, Like Acupuncture
It appears that acupuncture is able to create “homeostasis” or stability in the body. The alternative pain relief takes place due to improved circulation, as well as good blood and oxygen flow into the lungs.
Over a three-year period, doctors and researchers at Kyoto University and Meiji University of Integrative Medicine in Japan conducted a study involving COPD patients and the use of acupuncture. Following 3 months of treatment, they reported noticeable improvements in the patient’s airflow obstruction, exertion ability, and overall general health.
The research team was particularly pleased with how acupuncture appeared to improve labored breathing in patients with chronic COPD. Many of the patients taking part in the study chose to stay on their medications during the acupuncture process. Observers say more testing needs to be conducted to see what impact acupuncture can have on those who are medication free, although both Asian and Western based medical experts have often proposed a system of integrated medicine to treat conditions like COPD. Integrated means conventional medicine, natural approaches such as nutritional supplements, and alternative pain relief like acupuncture.
Inflammation for Alternative Pain Relief
Lung specialists say that inflammation plays a big role in COPD. Patients typically show signs of inflammation in the airways, lung tissue, and pulmonary blood vessels. The inflammation is further aggravated by the patient’s surroundings. For instance, if the person is exposed to cigarette smoke or chemicals, the inflammation can get worse.
Several studies in both the United States and Asia support the theory that acupuncture benefits people who have problems with inflammation. It has been described as a complementary therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, rhinitis, and vasculitis.
Numerous studies on acupuncture and pain relief are ongoing, including studies that look at the impact of the ancient Chinese technique on COPD sufferers. It is interesting to note how much attention acupuncture is getting from the medical establishment. Researchers see the promise that the treatment has; the possible applications it could have in the future. In the spring of 2011, a British study on a large group of patients with medically unexplained symptoms showed that acupuncture significantly improved their pain.
Other Health Benefits of Acupuncture
While acupuncture has been found to help with symptoms of COPD, there are many other health problems that can benefit from the form of Chinese medicine. For example, acupuncture has shown promise as a non-pharmacologic therapy for lower back pain. A report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 found that acupuncture was associated with decreased pain intensity and better function immediately after an acupuncture treatment, compared with no acupuncture.
For migraine sufferers, acupuncture may offer new hope for those looking for an alternative treatment. A review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that adding acupuncture to the treatment of migraine symptoms may reduce the frequency of episodes. For tension headaches, two studies found that that acupuncture added to usual care or treatment at the headache onset resulted in decreased headache frequency compared to those given usual care only.
Knee pain is a common complaint for our aging population, and acupuncture has shown to be helpful in pain relief. An analysis of previously published studies found that acupuncture improved physical function in the short and long term in people suffering from chronic knee pain due to osteoarthritis.
How To Incorporate Acupuncture Into Real Life
With acupuncture becoming more popular, it is becoming easier to find a clinic in almost every city. It is an easy treatment that requires no downtown afterward. Most sessions last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. The practitioner will spend an average of 30 minutes discussing signs and symptoms and the actual treatment of needles will last about 30 minutes.
In terms of what to expect, everyone experiences acupuncture differently. Some people feel relaxed and may be tired after a treatment while others feel energized. Overall people generally report a distinct balanced and harmonious feeling.