Pneumonia is inflammation of the small air sacs (alveoli) in one or both of the lungs. The cause is often an infection from an organism such as a virus, bacteria or fungus. Those most at risk for developing this condition are infants, young children, those over age 65 and anyone with a compromised immune system. Symptoms normally appear within a few days after exposure to an infectious agent, which is usually airborne.
Typical symptoms for all these groups include a productive cough (the presence of mucus which may be yellow, green or bloody), fever. sweating, severe chills that cause the body to visibly shake, difficulty breathing, fast breathing, chest pain exacerbated by coughing or breathing, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a racing heartbeat.
However, it is important to note that not every patient will experience these symptoms and the degree of severity may widely vary. For example, infants may appear restless, experience difficulties with eating and/or have a non-productive cough (no mucus present) as their symptoms. It is also common for adults over age 65 to experience confusion or even delirium as a symptom. Additionally, adults over 65 and patients with a compromised immune system, may have below normal body temperature. Or, an individual may present with only mild symptoms and have what healthcare professionals call 'walking pneumonia.' An acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner can help by addressing the infection in the lungs and assisting with any complications as the body recovers. While symptoms may lessen due to treatment, fatigue and tiredness may persist afterward for one month or more.
One therapy your practitioner may opt to use is moxibustion (moxa). Moxibustion therapy uses the smoke from the herb mugwort to stimulate acupuncture points. One form of moxa calls for one end of a long, cigar-like stick to be lit. The lit end is held carefully near, but not touching, a point on the body so as to allow the smoke to penetrate the skin. In this way blood flow and the body's natural immune responses are encouraged.
If a patient diagnosed with pneumonia complains of difficulty breathing, nausea and diarrhea, perhaps their acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner may choose a point on the stomach meridian for moxibustion therapy. A meridian is a set pathway on which Qi circulates throughout the body. Qi is the most basic and necessary energy needed to sustain all of life. Qi traveling within the stomach meridian is termed stomach Qi.
While it makes sense why an acupuncture point on the stomach meridian helps digestive problems such as nausea and diarrhea, it might be more confusing to understand why it can also be used to address issues relating to the lung like wheezing and difficulty breathing. This is because there is a complex network of meridians inside the body, which provides opportunities for many of them to connect through various crossing points. In this way, for instance, a point on the stomach channel can address asthma, or a point on the lung channel can aid diarrhea.
Patients often struggle with attempting to cough up mucus. One way to reduce this, according to acupuncture and Oriental medicine philosophy is to drink warm beverages. Drinking lots of warm fluids will help loosen phlegm so it may be expectorated more easily, helping to ease coughing and difficult breathing associated with pneumonia.
Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help with your recovery!
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.