Big news out of Japan. Researchers there have announced a health breakthrough for patients with the mostly terminal chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This respiratory condition is second in severity only to lung cancer. But there may be hope to breathe better, and it comes through acupuncture.
According to the new study, acupuncture is linked to improvements in “dyspnea,” which is also known as labored breathing. The study on COPD patients was published in the renowned “Archives of Internal Medicine.”
Managing dyspnea is an important target in the treatment of COPD, a common respiratory disease characterized by irreversible airflow limitation. Incredibly, COPD is predicted to be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020.
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Researchers conducted a randomized trial from 2006 to 2009, with 68 patients in total. Half (34) were assigned to real acupuncture for 12 weeks, plus daily medication. The other 34 were assigned to a placebo acupuncture group in which the needles were blunt — appearing to enter the skin, but not actually doing so. The primary measure was the evaluation of a six-minute walk test on a scale where 0 meant “breathing very well, barely breathless” and 10 signified “severely breathless.”
They found relevant improvements in dyspnea, nutrition status (as well as body weight), airflow obstruction, ability to exercise, and health-related quality of life after three months of acupuncture treatment.
After 12 weeks of treatment, the scale score after the six-minute walk test improved from 5.5 to 1.9 in the real acupuncture group. Meanwhile, there was no improvement in the placebo acupuncture group before and after treatment (4.2 and 4.6, respectively).
Of course, randomized trials with larger sample sizes and longer-term interventions with follow-up evaluations are necessary to confirm this possibility. But, for now, it should be noted that COPD sufferers now have another natural place to turn to, in order to help improve the symptoms of a treacherous illness.
When acupuncture is compared to “sham” acupuncture, it is very interesting, because then the true machinery that drives this ancient Chinese treatment seems to work. And for that to happen, one must believe in the existence of “Qi.” That is the essence of life that flows through our bodies and nature — and the focus of acupuncture.