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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


Presented by:  Health First Chiropractic

What is COPD?

Close to 200 million people world-wide suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It is the fourth leading cause of death in North America. COPD is an obstructive lung disease that may present as chronic bronchitis, involving long-term coughing, sputum production and restricted breathing; emphysema, commonly caused by smoking, which involves destruction of the lungs over time and thirdly, workplace exposure to dusts, chemicals, and fumes, including coal and gold mining, the cotton textile industry and fumes from welding. As well, poorly ventilated cooking fires, often fueled by coal, wood or dung is one of the more common causes of COPD in developing countries, with women being affected more than men due to more exposure. COPD is a progressive disease which typically worsens over time.

Causes and Symptoms:

Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of COPD and typically occurs in people over the age of 40 with males and females affected equally. In 2015, COPD resulted in 3.2 million deaths with more than 90% of these deaths occurring in the developing world. The most common symptoms of COPD are coughing up phlegm, shortness of breath and a chronic bronchitis before COPD fully develops. Vigorous coughing may lead to rib fractures or a brief loss of consciousness. People with COPD often have a history of common colds that last longer than normal. Air pollution and genetics can play a smaller role in the development of the disease.

Shortness of breath is worse with exertion over a prolonged length of time and will continue to worsen. Poor airflow causes the inability to breathe out fully, trapping air, which makes it harder to breathe out than to breathe in.

Poor airflow is the result of breakdown of lung tissue (emphysema) and small airways disease (obstructive bronchiolitis). In some cases severe hydration of small airways can lead to the formation of large air pockets called bullae that replace lung tissue. While treatment can slow progression of the disease, there is no cure.1

Chiropractic Treatment:

One would not normally think of a chiropractor when looking for relief from COPD, but chiropractors have the ability to assist in preventing and controlling this serious problem. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) conducted a study in 2002, finding that chiropractic adjustments were able to help improve chest wall compliance and diaphragmatic function in COPD patients, producing immediate and positive change in pulmonary function and chest wall mobility. Cervical spine adjustments of vertebral subluxations led to rapid improvement in upper respiratory symptoms in many case studies.

As vertebral subluxations can irritate the nervous system, they can in turn cause paraspinal muscle spasms and inflammation of lung tissue. These spasms can block the lymphatic system, taking away your body's ability to properly drain foreign antigenic material and mucus from the lungs. This, in turn, can cause your COPD symptoms to flare up, making it difficult to breathe as the chest wall mobility is inhibited. When your chiropractor adjusts your spinal alignment, the irritation to the nervous system is alleviated and your lymphatic system is able to better function. Breathing is then made easier by reducing the inflammation and swelling in the chest.

An Australian study followed 15 patients with moderate COPD over four weeks as they received different combinations of chiropractic treatment. The 15 patients were split into three groups of five and lung function tested. Five received only soft tissue therapy, 5 received spinal adjustments and soft tissue therapy. Lung function was measured again at the end of the four-week study. The study results showed patients that received spinal adjustments had less gasping for breath, patients who received a combination of the three treatments saw improved lung capacity and could walk longer distances. There were no reports of negative side effects.

The study concluded that chiropractic spinal adjustments, along with soft tissue therapy, allows the chest wall to move better by decreasing muscle spasticity and increasing range of motion in the joints. This helps allow easier breathing as the respiratory muscles do not have as much work to do and results in less shortness of breath.2

Living with COPD:

Most cases of COPD are potentially preventable through decreasing exposure to smoke and improving air quality. If you are a smoker- STOP smoking!! Eating a diet high in beta-carotene may help, but taking supplements does not seem to.3

Chiropractic can make your symptoms more manageable and reduce the number of flare ups you experience. In addition to regular adjustments at your chiropractor's office, it is recommended that you reduce the air pollution in your home, avoid inhaling cold air, stay away from people who smoke and slowly increase the amount of exercise you do. In severe cases you may require oxygen from a breathing machine. Eating a proper diet of fish, poultry and lean meat, as well as a nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, can also help improve your COPD symptoms as well as your overall health.

Disclaimer: Information contained in the The Wellness Express newsletter is for educational and general purposes only and is designed to assist you in making informed decisions about your health. Any information contained herein is not intended to substitute advice from your physician or other healthcare professional. References and Sources:  1. Vestbo, Jorgen (2013). “Introduction” Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (PDF). Global initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. x111-xv. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-04. 2. copd.newlifeoutlook.com. Accessed: 4/28/17 3. “Beta-carotene MedlinePlus Supplements”. Medlineplus.gov. Retrieved 26 December 2016. Writer:  Sandra Taylor

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