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Acupuncture for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a group of diseases that damage the lungs and cause difficulties in breathing. The two most common diseases in this group are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both obstruct airflow but for different reasons. Emphysema is a degenerative disease, which destroys the air passages in the lungs over time. Chronic bronchitis affects the lungs, with the main symptom being a long-term cough (over 3 months) with thick mucus present.

The symptoms of COPD happen gradually and when they are noticeable, extensive lung tissue damage has already occurred. According to current Western medical philosophy, this damage is not reversible but the symptoms can be stabilized and further harm can be mitigated with treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of COPD:

  •     Short of breath, especially upon exertion
  •     Wheezing
  •     Chest tightness
  •     Needing to clear the throat of mucus every morning
  •     Cough lasting over 3 months with clear, white, yellow or green mucus present
  •     Blue lips and/or fingertips (cyanosis)
  •     Frequent respiratory and lung infections
  •     Fatigue
  •     Unexpected weight loss

The largest known factor contributing to the cause of COPD is a history of smoking tobacco. It is estimated that 20 percent of all long-term cigarette smokers get this pulmonary disease. Approximately 1 percent of those diagnosed with COPD have it due to genetic reasons. It is important to note that chronic bronchitis often occurs right after one is just getting over the flu, cold or a respiratory infection.

Risk Factors for COPD include a long history of smoking tobacco, second-hand smoke, air pollution, exposure to noxious fumes in the workplace, smokers with asthma, being at least 35 years old -- as this is when symptoms typically arise and genetics

If you experience any of the symptoms of COPD, already have a diagnosis or feel concerned because you are a daily tobacco smoker, then it may be a good time to make an appointment with your practitioner. Not only can acupuncture and Oriental medicine help address any of your symptoms, but there are treatment protocols especially designed to manage addiction issues. If you need assistance breaking a nicotine habit, your practitioner may choose to perform the NADA protocol, or another one that specifically helps break an addiction.

NADA, short for the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, is an ear acupuncture treatment that provides relief from the symptoms of drug withdrawal. Everyone receiving it has the same five acupuncture points needled on both ears. The five points are lung, liver, kidney, shenmen and sympathetic.

The lung, liver and kidney are organs that all provide detoxification for the body in some capacity. Shenmen and sympathetic address the spirit by encouraging the clear thinking, willpower and great courage needed when one is breaking an addiction.

A typical treatment lasts for about 30 to 45 minutes after the insertion of acupuncture needles. Patients can sit quietly or may choose to lay down. It is quite reasonable to expect a relaxing session and a general sense of well-being to persist after treatment. The treatment goal is to reduce cravings and stress associated with addictions. Even if you are not a smoker, NADA or a similar protocol can help reduce the physical and emotional stress that often accompanies COPD.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help manage your symptoms!

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.

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