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What is asthma?
Asthma (also called essential asthma, bronchial asthma, and
atopic asthma) is a lung disease involving heightened sensitivity
to diverse stimuli and variable airway obstruction that is
reversible. It is a controllable ailment, but can be seriously
debilitating and even life threatening.
There is no cure for
asthma. Your comfort and piece of mind depend on how well
you learn to live with it.
Asthma attacks can come suddenly or gradually, last for minutes
or go on for days. Muscles around the airway (bronchi, bronchioles)
contract, the lining of the airway swells due to inflammation,
excess mucus is released and clogs the airway. Breathing becomes
harder and harder. Asthma attacks are episodes manifesting
one of more characteristic symptoms, such as:
shortness of breath
wheezing on breathing out
tightness in the chest
itchiness in the chest and throat
Some individuals have "mild" asthma. They may be free of
symptoms much of the time, with coughing and wheezing episodes
once or twice a week. "Moderate" asthma involves attacks more
than twice a week. Some very unfortunate patients have "severe"
asthma, with daily bouts of coughing, wheezing, and trouble
breathing. Any asthma sufferer exposed to a sufficiently powerful
causative factor or combination of asthma "triggers" can experience
a severe, even life-threatening, attack requiring emergency
What causes an asthma attack?
Things that people without asthma may not even notice can
cause distressing and dangerous narrowing of the airway of
someone with asthma. The list of environmental, behavioral,
emotional, or hereditary triggers that can cause asthma attacks
is long and varied:
Allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions):
dust and dust mites
tobacco smoke (or smoke from burning wood, leaves,
cockroaches and related insects
chemicals and chemical fumes, including perfumes,
room deodorizers, paint, adhesives, and cleaning products
outdoor air pollution (such as ozone and sulfur dioxide)
NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such
as aspirin, indomethacin, and ibuprofen)
sulfites (commonly used as a preservative for processed
foods and beverages)
some cooking odors
Getting chilled (especially due to changes in weather involving
exposure to very cold air)
Viral infections (colds and flu)
Crying, laughing, shouting
Heredity (some people inherit a predisposition to the sensitivities
that give rise to asthma)
Remember: not every item on this list triggers an asthma
attack in every person with asthma. Each individual has a
highly individualized set of triggers that he or she must
learn to recognize and avoid.
Who typically suffers from asthma?
Between 10 and 20 million people in North America have asthma
and the percentage of people with asthma has been increasing
in recent years. It is seen more often in children than adults.
Boys are twice as likely as girls to get asthma between 3
and 8 years of age. Adolescents of both sexes are equally
affected. It is a principal cause of kids missing school.
Many outgrow it; some have it return later in life. Fortunately,
children with asthma respond very well to chiropractic treatment.
What can chiropractic do?
Many chiropractors consider their role in caring for patients
with asthma, especially those subject to severe attacks, as
complementary to the medical management of the disease. They
do regular spinal adjustments to make asthma sufferers more
comfortable by helping relieve the muscle soreness and discomfort
that can develop during asthmatic flare-ups. Chiropractic
adjustments may help reduce the frequency and severity of
asthma attacks. The achievements of chiropractic in promoting
overall wellness, including enhancing the patient's capacity
to cope with chronic ailments, make chiropractors an important
part of the health care team that can help asthma patients
live more normal lives, minimally encumbered by this incurable,
but controllable condition.
The principal goal of chiropractic is to reduce asthma sufferers'
need to rely on the many medications prescribed to prevent
and treat asthma. These medicines (or combinations of medicines)
can have many troublesome and even dangerous side effects,
including making patients increasingly dependent on ever-larger
doses. Preventing asthma attacks is the key to living a normal
life in spite of having asthma. In practical, day-to-day,
quality-of-life terms, stopping asthma attacks before they
start is better than taking medicines to stop the attack and
restore pre-attack normality.
Chiropractors have the knowledge to provide a highly supportive
program of "clinical ecology" to teach patients how to identify
and avoid the particular environmental factors or irritants
that cause their asthma attacks. Your chiropractor can help
you pinpoint exactly which causes (see the list of causes
above) trigger your attacks and how to keep those causes out
of your life.
A chiropractor can help you, or your child or other family
member with asthma, try to meet the Asthma Treatment Goals
set by the U.S. National Institutes of Health:
To have the longest possible periods free of symptoms
To sleep through the night without asthma symptoms
Not to take time off from school or work because
To participate fully in physical activities
Not to have to visit an emergency rooms or stay in
To have little or no side effects from asthma medicines
To live a normal life without having to accept asthma
symptoms as normal
Other Resources :
More You Know About Asthma
Lines DH. A wholistic approach to
the treatment of bronchial asthma in a chiropractic practice.
Chiropractic Journal of Australia, Mar. 1993; vol.
23, no. 1, pp4-8.
Nielsen NH, Bronfort G, Bendix T, et al. Chronic asthma
and chiropractic spinal manipulation. Clinical and Experimental
Allergy, Jan. 1995; vol.25, no, 1, pp80-88.
Roberts RA, Sammut J. Asthma: An Alternative Approach,
New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1997.
Jamison JR, McEwen AP, Thomas SJ. Chiropractic adjustment
in the management of visceral conditions: A critical appraisal.
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics,
Jul.-Aug. 1992; vol. 15, no. 6, pp408-9.
Blackmam MP. Diagnosis and management of exercise-induced
asthma: A review of the literature. Journal of Sports Chiropractic
& Rehabilitation, 1997; vol. 11, no. 4, pp143-46.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your
Asthma Can Be Controlled: Expect Nothing Less, NIH Publication
91-2664, Washington D.C.: Public Health Service-National Institutes
of Health, 1991.
Nilsson N, Christainson B. Prognostic factors in bronchial
asthma in chiropractic practice. Journal of Australian
Chiropractors' Association, 1988; vol. 18, no. 3, pp85-87.
Christie GL, Helms PJ, Godden DJ, et al. Asthma, wheezy
bronchitis, and atopy across two generations. American
Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 1999;
vol. 159, pp125-29.
Hvid C. A comparison of the effect of chiropractic
treatment on respiratory function in patients with respiratory
distress symptoms and patients without. Bulletin of the
European Chiropractic Union, 1978; vol. 26, pp14-34.