Integrative Practitioner

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Asthma and Manual Therapy: Does it work?

by Sharon Ufberg, DC
 
Clinical studies and the systematic review of randomized trials to determine the benefit of manual therapeutics with asthma patients have been underway for at least the last ten years.  Those of us in the field who treat children and adult asthmatics do not need clinical research to report interesting results. Speaking as a seasoned clinician (after 30 years in practice – the seasoned descriptor has a polite ring to it), the stories are endless about the benefits that asthma patients report from receiving manual therapy and bodywork.

In most cases, adults and children with asthma have a primary doctor that oversees the pharmacological management of the condition and the chiropractor or other hands–on practitioner serves as an adjunct provider of care. The goal of this complementary care is to enhance the day to day quality of life, improve respiratory function, increase mobility of the thoracic cage, boost circulation and lymph flow, relieve symptoms, decrease stress, enhance the immune response to healing, and the list goes on and on. Often the integrative practitioner teaches specific breathing techniques and exercises which relaxes and empowers the patient.

It is reassuring to note that in most studies, no patients reported any worsening of symptoms when treated with manual therapy, and many of the families reported the ability to reduce the amount of medication used when the adjunct therapy was added to the care.
So if patients consistently report a positive subjective response to manual therapy for the treatment of asthma, then why are we not seeing more objective evidence to this point?

We all question the purpose of any study these days. Who is driving the research? What is the motivation and interest in the particular topic and why? Unfortunately, in 2010 we have become heavily skeptical of research results and tend to look for clear and reliable outcome measures to determine the significance a study may or may not have in the total picture. More studies with larger numbers of people while using the best methods available is an ongoing and necessary theme when in comes to patient research.

I am satisfied with the evidence available showing that offering manual therapy to asthma patients enhances the asthma sufferers overall health and well being and reduces symptomology. Working within a collaborative model of patient care appears to be what is best for the asthma patient.

As practitioners, we must keep going back to our colleagues, our conferences and the literature to find well-balanced and comprehensive methods to treat the wide variety of cases that walk through our doors each year. The rate at which the “science of medicine” is changing is truly staggering. We cannot be the experts in every aspect of healing but we can be intellectually curious partners in our patient’s quest for the best possible outcome. Collaboration at the core of healing should be the motto we attach to our desks and doorways. It is certain to assist us in continuing to grow and learn.


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