Please note: This is a two part article because of the length. The link to the second part is at the end of this article.
Asthma is a frightening condition. It is a hypersensitivity reaction causing bronchiospasm, swelling of the mucous
membranes and increased bronchial mucous secretion leading to respiratory distress. Asthma is a reversible
inflammatory airway disease. Treatment of asthma MUST include agents or methods that not only cause
bronchiodilation, but also reduce inflammation. Beta-agonists, typically given in conventional therapy
(such as Albuterol, Prednisone, etc.) notoriously do not significantly reduce inflammation, although they are effective
What Kind of Physical Medicine Can Help Asthma?
One of the fundamental philosophical tenets of Yoga, an ancient east Indian meditative exercise technique,
which means "union" (of body and spirit), is that the most important part of our bodily function to control is the breath.
The Sanskrit word for breath is "prana" which also means life force, or spirit. What this is leading up to is that control
of the breath is crucial for optimal health and well being, and a good place to start when life or health is out of
balance. Breathing exercises are extremely helpful for asthmatics, because they:
- strengthen respiratory muscles
- eliminate inefficient use of accessory muscles of respiration (such as abdominal or neck muscles)
- replace forceful breathing, which compresses airways, with relaxed breathing
- can reduce hyperventilation by increasing expiration
- can reduce the sensation of breathlessness by increasing the functioning of the diaphragm
- can enhance clearing of airways
- can give you the confidence to withstand breathlessness
To help control an acute attack, sit leaning forward with your head on arms, arms resting on a table. Or, try lying
semiprone, with arms and legs slightly bent and relaxed, body and limbs well supported by pillows.
One of the frustrating aspects of asthma is that it can be induced by exercise. Therefore, if you are prone to
asthmatic attacks mild aerobic exercise, such as swimming, is best for you. However, some asthmatics are
allergic to chlorine, which means swimming in a public pool is out.
Another useful Physical Medicine technique is that of Hydrotherapy, discussed at length in the Introduction to
Modalities section. Placing a hot, wrung out towel over the chest can relax the breathing muscles and restore
normal breathing. For an acute asthma attack try a steam inhalation (draping a towel over your head and a bowl
of hot water) with a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the water. Be careful that the water is not so hot that the steam
burns your face. Some doctors recommend taking baths with a cup or so of 3% hydrogen peroxide in the water to
bring extra oxygen to the entire surface of the skin, thus making the lungs somewhat less oxygen hungry. This method
can be performed preventively. Another technique for an acute attack is to drink some hot water with the juice of
one clove of garlic.
It may be useful to assess the alignment of your spine. Often the upper thoracic vertebrae will be out of alignment
after an asthma attack, which will ultimately put pressure on the lungs and possibly precipitate another attack. Getting
regular maintenance soft-tissue work (massage), specifically between the shoulder blades, followed by a Chiropractic
adjustment to the thoracic vertebrae, can reduce the frequency of attacks in chronic asthma, and the severity of
attacks in acute asthma.