Acupuncture to Ease Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

A recent clinical trial published in the May edition of Archives of Internal Medicine may hold promise for those suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The treatment? Acupuncture.

Posted on | Jamie Starkey, LAc | Comments ()

A recent clinical trial published in the May edition of Archives of Internal Medicine may hold promise for those suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The treatment? Acupuncture.

 

According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. COPD is the name given to a group of diseases negatively affecting your ability to breath, with the two most prevalent COPD diseases being chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In this family of disease, possible symptoms include shortness of breath (dyspnea), coughing, wheezing and fatigue.

In this latest acupuncture study conducted by a team of researchers in Japan, 68 COPD patients receiving standard conventional medication were randomly assigned to either traditional acupuncture (small hair-thin needles were placed into specific points on the body) or placebo acupuncture (blunt “fake” needles were used that never punctured the skin). Treatment lasted a total of 12 weeks. 

After the 12-week course of treatment, results for the acupuncture group showed improved breathing, lessened symptoms of dyspnea, and improved exercise tolerance.

Patients who suffer from COPD understand there is no cure for this disease. Once the disease is diagnosed, the focus is symptom management and improving quality of life. Patients make lifestyle changes such as avoiding cigarette smoke and other air pollutants while physicians can further manage symptoms with medications like bronchodilators. 

Critics of this study point out the study’s design flaws, such as its small sample size. There are indeed study limitations when trying to perform acupuncture randomized control trials. While the scientific community may butt heads, what does this mean for the lay person who suffers from COPD? 

With any treatment modality, weigh the risks versus potential benefits. Acupuncture treatments have little to no side effects, and the potential benefits are clear. If you suffer from COPD and want to enhance your conventional treatment approach, speak to your physician and consider adjunct treatment options like acupuncture, which may offer further relief of symptoms.

Blog written by Jamie Starkey, LAc
Jamie Starkey is Lead Acupuncturist at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine and offers acupuncture with a focus...