Asthma this Flu Season: How Osteopathy can Help
October 28, 2009
By Kate Johnson. First published on Your Total Health
Asthma Alternative: Using Osteopathic Medicine to Gain Control
Is asthma still taking your breath away no matter how carefully you follow your doctor’s orders?
You’re not alone.
While medication is the most effective way of controlling asthma, most asthma patients still go through times when they’re struggling for air.
In fact, some studies suggest that less than a quarter of asthma sufferers actually have their condition under the best control possible.
If medication isn’t adequately addressing the tightness in your chest and stiffness in your lungs, you may still have airway inflammation, which can make your breathing muscles less flexible and more restricted, says Dennis Dowling, D.O., an osteopath in Syosset, N.Y. In order to ease these persistent asthma symptoms, how about adding a mechanical tune-up to your treatment plan?
Like medical doctors, osteopaths (in the U.S.) are fully licensed to prescribe medication and even perform surgery. They work from the premise that the body’s musculoskeletal system plays a central role in illness and, therefore, healing. Using their hands to manipulate the muscles, joints and even internal organs– a technique called osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMT)– osteopaths literally push the body towards healing.
A former professor and chairman of the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Department at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Dowling uses OMT to ease breathing difficulties and calm flares in people with persistent asthma, in addition to their ongoing medical treatment. He says OMT, in combination with drug therapy, can help strengthen asthmatic lungs by loosening stiff muscles and freeing up the ribcage to allow your lungs to take a bigger breath
Montreal osteopath and athletic therapist Dave Campbell demonstrates how this hands-on therapy can improve breathing in someone with asthma. The patient takes a deep breath while Campbell pushes his fingers up and under the ribcage, stretching and loosening the muscles in the diaphragm. He performs a number of other manoeuvers, easing the tension in the intercostal muscles between the ribs, and releasing the scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles in the neck. All of these things loosen up the ribcage and allow the lungs to inflate more fully. Asthmatic breathing, even without a full asthma attack, overworks these muscles, making them short and tight, and squeezing the ribcage. “By manually easing this tension and getting the patient to fully inflate the lungs, you can help restore efficient respiratory function,” says Campbell. “Ensuring good movement in the cervical and thoracic spine will also help the lungs breathe more effectively and efficiently.”
Some medical doctors remain unconvinced of OMT’s benefits for asthma sufferers, largely because there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the claim. However, one published study of 140 children did show that patients with persistent symptoms, despite appropriate medical treatment, showed significantly improved lung function when given OMT in addition to their usual medication. ,
Andrea Vianna, M.D. a coauthor of the study, says she has seen OMT dramatically reduce hospitalizations in her asthmatic patients. “Osteopaths have everything that we have as MDs plus this manipulative technique, which is amazing,” she says, from her office in Long Island, N.Y..
So while you continue working with your doctor to fine the best medications for controlling your asthma, you may also consider OMT to help align your muscles to take bigger breaths.