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Dr Russ Blog - "Squeezing" Your Wheezes Away?
"Squeezing" Your Wheezes Away?
Created on 12/1/2009

I received a good blog question that patients often ask me about, and it couldn't be more timely. T asked if osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation could help people with asthma.

The existing science falls mainly on the side of there being little, if any, benefit to spinal manipulation for people with asthma. In fact, the author of a recent review, published in the journal Respiratory Medicine, concluded that spinal manipulation is not at all effective in the treatment of asthma.

Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the breathing passages where a combination of mucous buildup, inflammatory debris and muscular narrowing of the airways can result in difficulty breathing and wheezing. Symptoms are typically recurrent and can range from mild to truly life-threatening. That's why conventional western medical therapy should always play a central role in asthma management.

But select additional approaches may help with the treatment of asthma, especially optimizing the way you eat (following an anti-inflammatory diet), practicing stress management techniques, and minimizing exposure to air pollution. Other therapies are frequently mentioned as possible complements to conventional care and include osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation.

Osteopaths (D.O.s) are trained just like their medical doctor (M.D.)counterparts, but they also have an extensive background in the use of manual therapies to help relieve symptoms. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of D.O.s still practice manual medicine, the majority preferring to focus on conventional medical care like M.D.s do. Chiropractors undergo their own unique training that focuses on manual medicine. 

Manipulative therapies have their place in the treatment of specific disorders, for example uncomplicated neck or back discomfort, but spinal manipulation does not appear to be indicated in the treatment of asthma.

However, I have witnessed practitioners of manual medicine focus not so much on the spine in the setting of asthma, but more on the chest wall to release tightness or obstructions to the "bellows" movement of the rib cage, and many of these patients responded well to the treatment in the near term. It makes sense to me on a mechanical basis, but there are little data on this specific approach. 

So, T, I don't recommend spinal manipulation for the treatment of asthma.

I recommend paying attention to diet, getting adequate sleep, managing stress in healthy ways, and limiting exposure to airborne toxins together with appropriate conventional medical therapy. I am open to other approaches as well, including manual therapies that might ease the movements of the rib cage, but they should not be used as the primary treatment of a disease as serious as asthma.

I hope this helps, T! Be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **



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