Asthmatic Lungs Need Extra Care This Flu Season

October 28, 2009

By Kate Johnson – First published on my iVillage Healthbeat blog.

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Asthmatic Lungs Need Extra Care this Flu Season

Osteopath Dave Campbell instructs me to lie on my back. Then he pushes his fingers under my ribcage and tells me to take a deep breath. This lift and stretch move will ease the tightness in my chest, and free up my diaphragmatic muscles. For the past 12 years osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) has helped my asthmatic lungs breathe easier, not only when I am struggling through an acute asthma flare, but even when my asthma is under control.

I stumbled upon OMT by accident after running my first half marathon. Like most debut races, mine was hard. I was sore all over and was seeking Campbell’s expertise as an athletic therapist. I was skeptical when he suggested OMT for my diaphragmatic muscles– but after that first session I left with a literal weight off my chest.

Today Campbell is doing damage control – as I’ve spent the past two weeks coughing with bronchitis. A similar bout earlier this year ended in pneumonia.

So, with H1N1 influenza making daily headlines and seasonal flu just around the corner I am not taking any chances.

Asthma sufferers around the world are watching the H1N1 story nervously. Twitter is alive with tweets about their anxiety – and no wonder.

It’s common for people with asthma to have tight and inflexible breathing muscles, which is why we’re more likely than others to get bronchitis and pneumonia – especially if we come down with the flu.

I recently reported that less than one quarter of asthma sufferers have good control of their condition, which significantly increases their risks for influenza complications.

“Asthma is a moving target,” Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association told me. No kidding!

Even when you have the right medication, and you know how to take it, there are still times when breathing easy seems like a distant memory.

That’s why frustrated patients are looking for other solutions.

Dr. Edelman was not enthusiastic when I asked him about OMT. I didn’t tell him I had already tried it. I had a similar reaction from Dr. Robert Cowie, head of the asthma program at the University of Calgary.

But, as I have reported, OMT makes sense for the asthmatic lung.

Dennis Dowling, D.O., an osteopath in Syosset, N.Y is helping the American Osteopathic Association and the American Academy of Osteopathy gear up for the influenza onslaught. Osteopaths in the 1918 H1N1 pandemic had dramatic results with their hands-on approach – much better than medical doctors with their cough syrup and aspirin, he told me. Of course the science of the 1900’s is not what it is today, says Raymond Hruby, D.O., Professor of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, CA. But he, like me, thinks the osteopathic profession needs to come up with a proactive treatment protocol for influenza.

As a medical journalist I’m trained to weigh the evidence when it comes to treatments and their efficacy. When it comes to asthma and influenza there’s not much hard scientific evidence in favor of OMT. But, as a patient, the evidence is clear to me. With OMT as part of my asthma management I have managed to run 10 more half marathons, and I am heading into this flu season knowing I’ve given my lungs the best chance to stay strong.

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