Asthma and Osteopathy

By Dr. Angelo Cirillo

Asthma: what is it?

Bronchial asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, characterized by hyperactivity of the bronchial structures; it is widespread in the population and is still increasing, especially in industrialized countries.

The cause of this increase is not yet fully understood. Factors such as an increase in allergic forms, pollution, change in living conditions and modification of the diet have been called into question.
As regards age, asthma occurs with considerable frequency in childhood, representing the most common chronic disease and the main cause of hospital admissions in childhood. About 10-15 children out of 100 have episodes of bronchial asthma.

Clinical picture

The classic triad of asthma is constituted by bronchospasm, edema of the bronchial wall and hypersecretion. These phenomena are the basis of the functional consequences typical of asthma, ie bronchial obstruction and airflow limitation. The symptoms are characterized by dyspnoea, of variable degree with mostly sudden onset, mainly expiratory type, and can be accompanied by wheezing audible even at a distance, chest tightness, poorly productive cough with expectoration of particularly viscous mucus.

Role of Osteopathy

Osteopathy is an established and recognized health prevention system based on manual contact for diagnosis and treatment.
It respects the relationship between the body, mind and spirit, both in health and in disease: it places the emphasis on the structural and functional integrity of the body and the intrinsic tendency of the body to self-heal. Osteopathic treatment is seen as a facilitating influence to encourage this self-regulation process.

"World Osteopathic Health Organization" (WOHO)

The efficacy of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) in controlling asthma is currently gaining acceptance in the medical community in both Europe and the United States.
Osteopathy, in fact, offers a valid help to asthmatics, with its manipulative techniques it can assist all aspects of the breathing mechanism, "normalizing" all the structures involved: the ribs, the vertebral column, the diaphragm, and the other muscles accessory respirators (sternocleidomastoid, abdominal, scalene), the nerves that control the rib cage, as well as the supply of blood and other fluids to the bronchi and lungs; thus offering an important role in asthma control.
In patients with asthma, therefore, an osteopath aims to influence therapeutic responses through at least three distinct physiological mechanisms:

  • First of all, the osteopath restores the maximum conformity of the rib cage to increase the patient's respiratory movement, acting on the structure of respiration (ribs, thoracic vertebrae, sternum and connected joints) and on the muscular component of the same, thus obtaining results on the function.
  • The second physiological mechanism involved in an osteopathic treatment of an asthmatic patient is the normalization of the function of the autonomic nervous system. Branches of the vagus nerve provide parasympathetic innervation to important respiratory structures such as the lungs and diaphragm. Sympathetic innervation arises in the first four or five thoracic segments of the spinal cord and synapses in the vertebral ganglia which lie immediately deep within the costovertebral junctions in the upper chest. Treatment that restores movement in the atlanto-occipital and upper thoracic regions. it will improve the response to adrenergic stimuli, therefore the respiratory function.
  • Finally, an osteopathic treatment balances the blood-lymphatic flow to and from the bronchial tree. When this circulation is impeded or altered, the tissues become edematous and rich in accumulated metabolic waste products, this negatively affects cellular function and consequently on the "Evolving" asthma. Treatment of fascial tension (the supporting structure of the lymphatic vessels) reduces airway congestion in patients with asthma.

To support these theses, there are numerous accredited studies, which through medical research methods, have highlighted the improvement of respiratory function in asthmatic patients undergoing osteopathic treatments.

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