As mentioned earlier, I have been “experimenting” with asthmatic patients in a very informal way with some very positive results. While the results are virtually meaningless due to lack of scientific rigour, it does seem there might be a plausible (if not water-tight) reason for these observations.
But if the neurological argument does not stack up, what else could be responsible for patient reported improvements?
The word that is most likely to be on most people’s tongues (and mine!) is placaebo. This is a striking phenomenon in which patient belief affects outcome, and has been attributed with some startling effects. In all likelihood this plays a major part in any improvements in asthma symptoms, perhaps being the sole cause.
Stress is also an interesting factor to discuss here. It can precipitate asthma attacks, as well as exacerbate them and increase a person’s sensitivity to irritants. Stress comes in many forms, but taking time out of your day to see a chiropractor can be a very stress relieving thing. There is also something uniquely reassuring in being able to talk at length about how your complaint affects you, undergoing a full, hands on examination, and subsequently having your condition and potential treatment explained in depth.
A final potential factor in asthma response to chiropractic treatment is the mechanical effect manipulation has on the thoracic cage. Costovertebral (rib) and intervertebral (spinal) joints should articulate with every breath. Due to a variety of reasons, it is exceptionally common for some of these joints to articulate poorly. This makes breathing harder, leading to recruitment of accessory respiratory muscles which enhance the problem, with an overall effect of decreased lung capacity and efficiency. Freeing up these stiff joints with manipulation allows air to be inhaled/exhaled more easily.
In all likelihood all of the factors discussed above contribute in cases where asthma symptoms improve with chiropractic treatment. This, combined with the multifactorial nature of asthma, means that seeing a chiropractor may not help every time or ever completely you’re your asthma.
But there are some pretty good reasons why it might be worth a look.
If having read this you are interested in discussing anything covered, please feel free to contact me.