Treat Lung Problems with Acupressure
April 22, 2004—Adults suffering from shortness of breath that results from chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma may benefit from receiving frequent acupressure treatments, reports the Journal of Advanced Nursing (2004;45:252–9). The findings suggest acupressure improves breathing, reduces anxiety, and increases the amount of activity people with lung problems can perform before they experience shortness of breath.
Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma all are considered to be forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although they are different diseases and have different underlying causes, all of them result in partial blocking in the airway, which limits the amount of oxygen absorbed through the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic cough, and wheezing. COPD can also lead to a severe depletion of oxygen called hypoxia, which can be fatal if not recognized and treated in time. Smoking cigarettes and advanced age account for more than 85% of the risk of developing COPD, but allergies, exposure to pollutants and chemicals, and genetic predisposition are also risk factors.
In the new study, 44 elderly adults with COPD were randomly assigned to receive either true acupressure or fake (sham) acupressure for five 16-minute sessions per week for four weeks. The true acupressure treatment involved pressing on five specific acupuncture points known to improve lung function, while the sham acupressure treatment consisted of pressing on three acupuncture points that are not believed to have any benefits for the lungs. Questionnaires regarding shortness of breath, fatigue, activity level, and anxiety were given before the start of the study and after the last treatment session. The distance each participant could walk in six minutes and the amount of oxygen in the blood were also recorded before and after the study.
Those receiving true acupressure breathed easier, with less fatigue and anxiety by the end of the treatment period, compared with the group receiving sham acupressure. The true acupressure treatment group was also significantly more active and had a higher amount of oxygen in the blood, suggesting better overall lung function. Walking distance after six minutes was significantly longer in those receiving true acupressure than in those receiving sham acupressure. These results suggest acupressure may not only improve breathing, but may enhance one’s quality of life by maintaining more independence in performing daily activities.
Acupressure is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in which stimulating specific points on the body is believed to improve the function of the different organs. Acupuncture is the standard method used in TCM, which involves inserting a sterile needle into a point on the body to stimulate it. In contrast, acupressure is where the practitioner achieves the same goal by using his hands to briefly apply pressure to the same points. This gentle approach may be just what the doctor ordered to help people with COPD start breathing easier.
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Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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