Acupuncture is a famous form of pediatric healthcare treatment for the alleviation of almost all types of pain, chronic or acute. This article will talk about acupuncture’s viability in relation to pediatric healthcare treatment of asthma. But before we do this, we need to first understand what acupuncture is and see its workings from a physiological perspective.
A typical acupuncture procedure involves the use of extremely fine needles inserted into acupuncture points (or acupoints) that correspond with the relief of a given discomfort. The needles are inserted into the acupoint from a depth of 0.3 in. to as deep as 0.8 in. They remain stuck in the acupoints for about 15 to 20 minutes per treatment.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
From the standpoint of Western medical science, acupuncture affects the circulatory system and the sympathetic nervous system as well as several other anatomical systems to normalize the functions of the body in given situations. The acupuncture points are specific points on the surface of the skin where underneath lie nerve endings that connect to the brain. The needles insertion into an acupoint stimulates electromagnetic energy to the nerve ending which causes the brain to release certain neurotransmitters that help relieve pain, discomfort, illness, and stress.
From the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), underneath each acupoint is a meridian or energy channel in which flows vital energy the Chinese refer to as Chi or Qi (which correspond to Western medicine’s definition of electromagnetic energy). The free flow of Chi means that the person experiences good health; if Chi flow bogs down due to an obstruction in the meridian, the person then experiences illness and dis-ease.
Asthma in TCM is called xiao chuan, which in English means dyspnea and wheezing. These two symptoms are deemed separate conditions and so are treated separately. Patients who suffer from wheezing will also experience shortness of breath but those suffering from shortness of breath will not necessarily manifest wheezing symptoms. Wheezing is characterized by the peculiar “whistling” sound that accompanies the breathing of a person suffering an asthma attack.
From the viewpoint of TCM, the pathogenesis and etiology of pediatric asthma is based on 3 main factors. External pathogen invasion is the first factor. Allergens such as cigarette smoke, pollen, heat, and cold are some of these pathogens. When these external pathogenic factors are treated, usually the initial step is to do an allergy test. When the test indentifies an allergen, it is imperative to remove any item that may contain the identified allergen in the child’s place of residence.
From the standpoint of acupuncturists, symptoms and signs of cold type asthma will include cough with clear sputum, rapid breathing, and wheezing. The symptoms and signs of heat type asthma, on the other hand, will include sticky and yellow sputum and a full cough. The next or second factor to be taken into account in childhood asthma is the diet of the child. The chance for asthmatic attacks greatly increases when the child is fed with fried or greasy foods. Some children are also allergic to seafood, most especially shellfish.
Knowing the foods that trigger a child’s asthmatic attacks and removing those foods from the child’s diet is very important in significantly lessening the frequency of the asthmatic attacks.
From an acupuncturist’s standpoint, the third factor to be considered is the underlying deficiency in the child. This underlying deficiency or weakness may be caused by chronic illness or a congenital issue. And when the child is weak, he/she may not be able to spit out phlegm which leads to its accumulation in the body due to a compromised water metabolism. The storage and production of phlegm is located in the lungs and we all know that the lung is the organ most affected during asthmatic attacks.
In the treatment of childhood asthma, several herbal remedies as well as numerous acupoints are used. Chinese pediatric massage or acupressure may be used in lieu of acupuncture depending on the health and age of the child. It is important to bring your child to a qualified practitioner for treatment so the child may get the type of TCM treatment that is best for him/her.
Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.