Most of us probably come across many people who suffer from asthma in our daily lives. Statistics Canada estimates that the disorder affects as many as 2.5 million Canadians, with prevalence rates worldwide increasing by an average of approximately 50 per cent every decade.
While the severity of asthma can vary, most sufferers are able to live healthy, active lives with the aid of inhalers and preventative drugs and treatments. Nonetheless, asthma is still a cause of discomfort for those who may experience increased stress, physical pain, and occasionally severe episodes. While massage therapy cannot treat asthma directly, it still has a role to play in alleviating some of the symptoms associated with the disorder, helping asthmatics to manage their condition better while living more comfortable lives.
Asthma is a chronic disorder related to the airways of the lungs, and can be triggered by a number of different factors. Internal triggers can include stress, over-exertion during exercise or even laughter, while external factors usually involve the inhalation of certain substances such as pollen, dust, or air pollution.
These triggers cause the bronchial tubes to inflame and go into spasm, restricting the amount of air reaching the lungs and leading to coughing, breathlessness, and tightness in the chest. Graduates who have earned their massage therapy diploma should be aware of the symptoms of an attack when treating asthmatics, and ensure the patient’s inhaler is close by during treatment. While most attacks are mild and subside quickly, more serious episodes may require medical attention.
For many asthmatics, managing stress is crucial to controlling the disorder. Not only can anxiety act as a trigger for an attack, it can also aggravate symptoms, leading to more serious episodes. Many sufferers also report generally higher stress levels than normal as a result of living with the condition.
As students pursuing their therapeutic massage diploma know, massage therapy can significantly lower stress levels, and could prove beneficial for asthmatic patients in alleviating some anxiety about their condition while helping to increase their general feelings of wellbeing.
Repeated asthma attacks can also put strain on the respiration muscles in the shoulders, neck, and rib cage, causing them to become chronically tight and worsening symptoms over time. Soft tissue therapy can help to relax and lengthen these muscles, improving general respiratory function and relieving discomfort.
One of the most significant studies into the beneficial effects of massage on asthma sufferers was conducted jointly by the Touch Research Institute at the University Of Miami, and Duke University Medical School in 1998, in which 32 children between the ages of 4 and 14 years received either massage or another form of relaxation therapy before bedtime for 30 days.
Asthmatic children aged 8 showed a marked decrease in behavioural anxiety and cortisol levels after massage, as well as an improvement in their peak air flow and other pulmonary functions. Older children appeared to experience less therapeutic benefit, but still reported lower levels of anxiety, as well as an improvement in forced expiratory flow. These findings were supported by further study in 2008, which showed similar improvements in a group of 44 children in the same age range.
Looking to enroll in massage college in British Columbia?
Contact OVCMT for more information about our program.