Conventional treatment for asthma concentrates on the use of drugs, which can be divided into three main groups – preventers, relievers, and emergency drugs. Unfortunately, drugs can have adverse side effects especially with overuse and long term use.
On the other hand, complementary therapies aim to stimulate the body’s natural resources and self-healing abilities and try to heal the whole person rather than just treating a specific symptom or symptoms. The complete person is treated in a holistic manner on all three levels – physical, mental and emotional.
The House of Lords Select Committee report on complementary and alternative medicine (“CAM”) acknowledged that the use of CAM is high and increasing. It has been estimated that at least 5 million patients in the UK have consulted a CAM practitioner in the last year and that 1 in 3 people will use CAM at some stage in their lifetime. The House of Lords report also acknowledged that patients’ satisfaction with their CAM treatment is high and is likely to account in part for a significant proportion of the high level of CAM use.
As asthma is a chronic condition – constantly present or recurring because there is no drug to permanently cure it – many people have turned to complementary therapies for help. Some of the most popular complementary therapies for asthma are listed below.
Acupuncture – Originating from China, acupuncture involves the painless insertion of fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific points called acupoints. It is based on the traditional Chinese theory that pain and illness are the results of excess or deficient energy in the affected part of the body. Acupuncturists use the needles at particular acupoints along ‘vital energy’ pathways called ‘meridians’ to correct the imbalances in the energy flow and thus relieve pain and illness.
Alexander Technique – Based on a theory that the way a person uses their body affects their general health. It is a system of postural re-education and is a self-help and largely preventative method you can practice for yourself once you have learned it from a trained practitioner. Further information can be found at the website.
Aromatherapy – The use of essential oils distilled from a variety of plants believed to have healing properties. The essential oils are usually inhaled or used as a massage oil.
Bowen Technique – The Bowen Technique consists of a number of gentle “moves” across muscle or tendon in specific places on the body which encourage the body to heal itself. In relation to asthma, the Bowen respiratory procedure persuades the muscles, especially the diaphragm, to relax more and more. There is a specific Bowen Asthma Emergency Procedure for a full asthma attack.
Buteyko Method – The Buteyko Method is based on the premise that asthma attacks are triggered by incorrect breathing and the loss of carbon dioxide. Treatment involves very specific breathing exercises together with reduced breathing work and dietary and lifestyle changes.
Herbal medicine – Uses various remedies derived from plants to treat disease and disorders, and to maintain good health by keeping the body balanced. The aim is to build up the body so that it fights off illness and heals itself.
Homeopathy – Based on the theory of treating like with like. A homeopath will give a patient a minute dose of a substance, which in large doses would produce the same symptoms in a healthy person. Assists the natural tendency of the body to heal itself.
Hypnotherapy – A form of psychotherapy that works on the subconscious to change thought and behavior patterns. It involves deep relaxation and is suitable for psychosomatic disorders and stress-related conditions.
Massage – The manipulation of the body’s soft tissues with specific techniques to promote or restore health. Massage can release body tensions that build up stressful situations.
Naturopathy – Based on the body’s built-in ability to repair itself. Involves fasting (an ‘internal cleansing’), diet, exercise, and hydrotherapy.
Nutritional medicine – Uses diets, nutritional supplements and herbal remedies to treat and prevent illness, and restore the body to a natural healthy equilibrium.
Reflexology – Treats health problems by massaging points on the feet called ‘reflex zones’ that are believed to correspond to and link up with different parts of the body. Said to stimulate the body’s own healing system and unblock energy channels.
Yoga– Ancient Indian art of adopting postures with related exercises designed to promote spiritual and physical well-being. Regulates your breathing and relieves stress and tension.