Got Respiratory Problems?

by Hon Lee on June 8, 2019

Chronic Cough? Try Acupuncture

Any cough persisting for more than 8 weeks in adults, or more than 4 weeks for children, is considered chronic. A chronic cough is more than just a nuisance; it can cause serious disruptions to your health. Coughing attacks during the night tend to interrupt sleep, resulting in day-time fatigue and drowsiness. Episodes can also result in vomiting, dizziness, headaches, urinary incontinence, loss of consciousness, and rib fractures

Smoking, post nasal drip, asthma and acid reflux are the most common causes, followed by chronic bronchitis, the flu, pneumonia, whooping cough, and certain blood pressure medications. Although less likely, lung cancer or cystic fibrosis can lead to a chronic cough as well. Signs and symptoms may include runny nose, constant need to clear the throat, difficulty breathing, sour taste in the mouth, or spitting up blood or sputum.

When treating a chronic cough, it is important to address the root cause, as it is known according to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Once the underlying cause is cleared up, the chronic cough clears up too. However, no matter what organs need rebalancing to address the root cause, treatment focuses on the lungs.

Uncontrollable coughing represents a characteristic known as 'rebellious Qi.' Qi is the most fundamental energy essential for all forms of life and when it is unruly, Qi flows in the wrong direction, causing health problems. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help soothe your cough and eliminate risk factors that contribute to a chronic cough such as smoking or acid reflux.

Reducing chemical dependencies helps reduce a patient's craving and assists the body in detoxifying harmful substances. In the case of acid reflux, acupuncture treatments can help the stomach from forcing digestive juices upwards. As the acid reflux subsides, chronic coughing should also lessen.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the name for a group of diseases that damage the lungs and pose difficulties in breathing, is the third leading cause of death in the Unites States. Symptoms often start slowly and may take years to present, leading many to receive delayed diagnosis and treatment. By the time the signs are noticeable, extensive lung tissue damage has usually occurred. 

This damage is not reversible but symptoms such as chest tightness, strained breathing, and excess mucus production can be stabilized and further harm can be mitigated with treatment. It is very important to seek medical treatment immediately if you notice that you can no longer climb stairs or walk without becoming short of breath, your lips and/or fingernails become blue when you exert yourself, or you notice your mental abilities are failing.

The two most common diseases associated with COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both obstruct airflow but for different reasons. Emphysema is a degenerative disease that destroys the air passages in the lungs over time and reduces the body's ability to absorb oxygen. Its hallmark symptom is feeling short of breath. Other prominent symptoms include a chronic (long-term) cough, excess coughing up of mucus and saliva (known as sputum), and breathlessness. Chronic bronchitis affects the lungs, with the main symptom being a long-term cough (over 3 months) with thick mucus present. 

According to the American Lung Association, long-term tobacco smoking causes approximately 80-90 percent of COPD deaths. Long-term exposure to breathing in toxins such as air pollution, manufacturing fumes, and other airborne irritants may also contribute to development of the disease. 

There are many ways acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help. First, if you need help breaking a smoking addiction, there are very specific ear acupuncture and/or body acupuncture protocols designed to do just that. Second, there are acupuncture treatments to assist your lungs by helping them relax. Once your body is at rest, blood and airflow may increase, which helps your breathing. Third, dietary recommendations can strengthen your digestive system, which, in turn, supports your immune system.

During your visit, symptoms are assessed and a treatment plan is designed specifically for you. For example, you may show signs of phlegm in the lungs if you constantly bring up sputum, experience breathlessness even when at rest, and your tongue has a thick white or yellow coating on it. A thick tongue coating, plus other symptoms, indicates to your practitioner that the air passages in your lungs may need phlegm removed from them.

In addition to acupuncture, you may receive dietary advice to help relieve your symptoms. When the body is constantly coughing up sputum, reducing your intake of fatty, cloying foods can help reduce phlegm production. Avocados, nuts, and olive oil provide a fat source that can be easier on the digestive system. Warm, fragrant soups are also an option for an easy-to-digest meal.

Seasonal Allergies?

About 26 million Americans endure chronic seasonal allergies, while the number of people with milder symptoms may be as high as 50 million, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Acupuncture has been used to treat seasonal allergies for centuries with great success. According to traditional medicine, treatment is geared toward clearing the nasal passages, supporting the immune system, and strengthening the systems of the body to prevent allergic reactions from recurring.

Commonly called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergy is caused by the body's hypersensitivity to substances in the environment and is typically only triggered during part of the year, such as spring or fall. Pollens spread by the wind are usually the main cause. People who are allergic to pollen are also often sensitive to dust, dust mites, animal dander, and mold--all of which can be found almost year-round. Symptoms primarily involve the membrane lining the nose or the membrane lining the eyelids and covering the whites of the eyes.

While there are many medications to treat the symptoms of seasonal allergies, these treatments can cause unwanted side effects like drowsiness and immune system suppression as well as an over-reliance on medications. These reactions have motivated many people to turn to acupuncture and Oriental medicine as a natural approach to the management of allergies.

When treating with acupuncture, underlying imbalances within the body are addressed and a treatment plan is developed to relieve acute symptoms while also treating the root problems that are contributing to the body's reaction to allergens. Treatments often include dietary modification, the use of specifically chosen herbal formulas, and acupuncture.

Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year also serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.

Acupuncture for Allergic Rhinitis - A Meta Analysis

How well does acupuncture address the symptoms of allergic rhinitis? A study entitled "Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis" answers this question. This trial can be found in the January 2015 edition of the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy.

Researchers decided to take an in-depth look at numerous scientific studies from all over the world that focused on patients with nasal problems due to allergies. To maintain the integrity of the meta-analysis, only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were utilized. The focus of the investigation centered on the potency and safety of using acupuncture to address symptoms affecting the nose.

The large-scale analysis included several studies with nearly 2,400 test subjects. To properly assess the efficacy of acupuncture, researchers looked at rhinitis quality of life questionnaires and 36-item short form surveys (SF-36). These are medical tools used to evaluate a patient's symptoms.

To help discern the power of acupuncture, researchers scrutinized evaluation charts regarding the severity and symptoms of each patient. Additionally, levels of serum IgE in the bloodstream and medication usage for each participant were important factors.

In all the studies, researchers discovered that the groups of patients receiving acupuncture experienced exceptional, statistically-significant reductions in nasal symptoms, in comparison to the participants in control groups. The results proved that acupuncture is a safe, effective therapy to relieve nasal symptoms resulting from allergies.

Source: Feng S, Han M, Fan Y, Yang G, Liao Z, Liao W, Li H. (2015). "Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis". American Journal Rhinology Allergy. 29(1):57-62. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2015.29.4116.

Hon K. Lee is a Licensed Acupuncturist in Herndon, VA., and the founder of Sports Edge Acupuncture Clinic. He is also an author, teacher, martial arts instructor, qigong practitioner and a U.S. Marine combat veteran. Proceeds from the sale of his memoirs go to charities that benefit wounded warriors and their families.

Hon Lee – who has written posts on Acupuncture Herndon, VA.

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Sports Edge Acupuncture Clinic
1033 Sterling Rd #105, Herndon, VA 20170
Phone: 571-306-0533


Serving Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Northern Virginia..

Zip Codes: 22066, 20148, 20151, 201152, 20164, 20166, 20170,
20171, 20190, 20191, 22182, 221124.