Asthma is a common and debilitating respiratory condition which can affect people of all ages. Sufferers experience difficulties breathing to a lesser or greater degree, often accompanied with wheezing and a tight, restricted chest. They have sensitive airways in their lungs which, when exposed to certain triggers including dust mites, stress and other environmental factors, cause these airways to narrow making it hard to breathe. This narrowing results in recruitment of the neck, upper back and rib cage muscles as sufferers battle to get air in and out of their lungs. You may see the person hunching up with their arms fixed against something and their chin on their chest while they fight for air – particularly if they are experiencing a more extreme asthma attack.
So how can Osteopaths help those with asthma? Well, treatment relates back to the fundamental principles of structure being interrelated with function of the body. We aim to maximise breathing mechanics by loosening the rib cage and reducing the muscle tone of the upper chest, back, shoulders and neck. Emphasis is also placed on loosening tension in the diaphragm (the domed muscle under the lower rib cage that is our main breathing muscle), improving drainage through the lymphatic system and balancing the nervous system which controls the width of the airways and the mucous within them. This helps reduce hyperventilation which may lead to the full blown attacks.
Treatment is offered in conjunction with advice and tips on posture, exercise, effective breathing, and diet.