Japanese researchers have discovered that COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients would find acupuncture helpful in alleviating shortness of breath during activity. COPD is a disease of the lungs that gets progressively worse making it more and more difficult to breathe. Exposure to other toxins or chronic smoking can cause this condition.
Retired professor from the University of Southampton in Hampshire, England, Dr. George Lewith stated that acupuncture produces a positive effect that is quite remarkable in a condition conventional treatments seem unable to resolve.
A 4,000 year old Chinese healing procedure, acupuncture uses very fine solid needles that are inserted into points on the body known as acupoints to enhance well-being and health. In addition to acupuncture, the researchers also tested conventional standard care.
Dr. Lewith added that the research can be duplicated which can verify the efficacy of the treatment. Acupuncture can improve significantly and potentially the quantity and quality of life of people suffering from COPD. He also said that the treatment (acupuncture) is safe and COPD patients should definitely try it. Further studies as to the cost effectiveness of this treatment need to be done.
The Archives of Internal Medicine posted this study online on their website on May 14. COPD has no cure. Present day treatments for it focuses in decreasing flare ups that require hospitalization and the slowing down its progression. Medical researchers have pointed out that COPD is probably the third deadliest disease in the world.
Researchers from the Kyoto University and Meiji University of Integrative Medicine under the leadership of Masao Suzuki conducted a study involving 68 severe COPD patients. The patients were randomly assigned with 12 weeks of conventional drug therapy and acupuncture, or sham acupuncture treatment, a procedure in which the skin is not penetrated by the acupuncture needles.
At the end of 12 weeks the patients were subjected to a six-minute walking test. The results of the test showed that patients administered with acupuncture experienced a substantial enhancement in breathing ability as well in their ability to walk farther. Those subjected to sham acupuncture treatment also experienced an improvement in breathing.
Dr. Suzuki concluded that the outcomes clearly show that acupuncture is an effective and important non-pharmacological treatment for the management of COPD and should be utilized as a complementary treatment to standard medical care.
Suzuki added that “healthcare providers and patients alike should be aware that acupuncture can be a helpful mode of treatment for internal conditions and not only for painful conditions. Those who performed the study believed that acupuncture improves the mobility and strength of the chest muscles and relieves stress. The chest becomes more flexible and this makes breathing easier.”
The authors concluded that in order to validate acupuncture’s usefulness in treating COPD in Cleveland, longer-term interventions and more randomized trials with more participants are needed. However, even though, it may seem that acupuncture helps relieve the symptoms of COPD in this study, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
These findings were accepted with caution by the American Lung Association’s chief medical officer, Norman Edelman. He said that the results are real and yet surprising since it’s difficult to understand how acupuncture can boost lung function. Edelman believed that the effect is biologic or placebo and that acupuncture can never replace current standard treatments. He added that it isn’t known if acupuncture’s effect lessens or endures over time but for patients suffering from severe and uncontrolled shortness of breath, acupuncture may be worth a try.
The treatment may cost around $60 to $120.