Asthma is one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in the United States with over 15 million Americans affected, including four million children. According to U.S. News & World Report, the death rate from asthma has increased more than 66% since 1980, with a record 6,600 annual deaths attributed to asthma. Worldwide, an estimated 300 million people suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. According to the American Lung Association, both the number of cases and deaths due to asthma are surging. Cases nearly doubled from 1994 to 2009 with the biggest increase among people ages 18-44.
Americans spend $6.2 billion annually on asthma treatment and over $1 billion on medications. Adults with asthma lose over $850 million in lost wages from work and parents with asthmatic children lose over $1 billion by staying home from work to care for their children. Asthma is the #1 cause of hospitalization for children in the United States.
So you can see, asthma is both a deadly and expensive disease. So what causes asthma and why is it on the rise? An asthma attack is caused by an inflammatory response which causes constriction of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. During the attack, the lining of the airways also becomes swollen and thicker or more than normal mucus is produced. Symptoms of an asthma attack include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing normal daily activities.
The exact cause of asthma is not known. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause it. These factors can include: an inherited tendency to develop allergies, certain respiratory infections during childhood, and contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in early childhood.
An asthma attack can be triggered by different types of irritants including dust, pollen, ragweed, aspirin, cockroaches, perfume, stress, dust mites, pet hair, food additives, and occupational vapors. Although these things may trigger an attack, they are not the primary cause of the attack. Research has shown that there are several factors that contribute to asthma, including the recent increased use of antibiotics and vaccines.
Several studies have shown that the incidence of asthma and allergies tends to rise in countries where childhood immunization rates are high. This has prompted some researchers to suggest that certain infections may trigger immune changes that protect children from developing asthma and allergies later. Preliminary studies have shown a protective effect of measles and infections with intestinal parasites.
According to Newsweek, “With the rise of vaccine and antibiotics, people in developed countries have experienced fewer serious childhood infections than ever before and scientists suspect that an immune system with no serious work to do is likely to become a renegade army, attacking whatever irritant it encounters. Research needs to continue to explore the causes and contributing factors of asthma. More
Spinal misalignments cause many health problems because vertebrae that are not aligned properly can irritate important nerves and restrict their effectiveness. The nerves coming out of the upper back innervate the lungs, and if these nerves aren’t functioning optimally they may make the lungs more sensitive to asthma triggers. In fact, there are a number of studies that show that chiropractic correction of these spinal misalignments help improve the symptoms of asthma.
Dr. Ray Hayek conducted a trial at 16 treatment centers in Australia, involving 420 patients, in an effort to find out what effects spinal manipulation has on symptoms such as depression and anxiety, general health status, and the levels of immunity. He tested the concentrations of both an immunoglobulin (IgA) and an immunosuppressant (cortisol) to gauge his results. Dr. Hayek was trying to prove that different forms of manual therapy (including massage) improve symptoms and lower cortisol levels in asthma patients.
Dr. Hayek reported that only the patient group that underwent spinal manipulation displayed significant improvement in asthma symptoms. Conducting only interviews at the treatment centers or being monitored at home did not yield these improvements. In addition, patients actually undergoing spinal manipulation displayed dramatic increases of IgA and decreases of cortisol even after asthma treatment had ceased, suggesting that the treatments affected the patients’ long-term health. These patients were expected to ward off subsequent asthmatic attacks.
These changes not only suggest that the effects of spinal manipulation are more far-reaching than commonly believed, but that they may be more long-term as well. The gain in health achieved after spinal manipulations were performed is expected to reduce the incidence and severity of pathogenic invasion of the airways. There would be less of a risk under these circumstances of experiencing the symptoms of asthma.
Another study was conducted by the National University Hospital (Rigshospitalet) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The purpose of their randomized patient- and observer-blinded cross-over trial was to evaluate the efficacy of chiropractic treatment in the management of chronic asthma when combined with pharmaceutical maintenance therapy. Patients were randomized to receive either active chiropractic spinal manipulative treatment or sham chiropractic spinal manipulative treatment twice weekly for 4 weeks, and then crossed over to the alternative treatment for another 4 weeks. During the course of the study, objective lung function did not change. However, during the study, non-specific bronchial hyperreactivity (n-BR) improved by 36% and patient-rated asthma severity decreased by 34% compared with the baseline values.
In another study conducted in 1996 by the Michigan Chiropractic Council (MCC), a panel of doctors tested the effectiveness of chiropractic care on children with asthma. The study, which took place during May and June of 1996, examined the impact of chiropractic care on asthmatic patients from birth to age 17. “After 30 days of chiropractic health care, patients averaged only one attack, whereas prior to the study they were experiencing more than four attacks,” said MCC Dr. Bob Graham, who directed the study. “Medications, which can be costly, were decreased by nearly 70 percent. Finally, patient satisfaction was rated 8.5 on a scale of 10.”
According to Richard Pistolese, research assistant for the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, “Based upon information currently available, chiropractic care represents a safe non-pharmacological health care approach, that may be associated with a decrease in asthma-related impairment, reduced respiratory effort, and a decrease incidence of asthma attacks.” Pistolese goes further to say, “The correction of vertebral subluxation is a non-invasive procedure, which could reduce or eliminate the need for medication, and potentially ease the severity of the asthmatic condition.”
Based on these studies and results other patients have gotten with chiropractic care, if you or someone you love suffers from asthma, you may want to try chiropractic care.