Asthma is a respiratory condition that causes the bronchi of the lungs to spasm and makes it very difficult to breathe. Essentially, it makes it difficult for the air in the body to move in and out of the lungs. There is currently no known cure for asthma so managing the symptoms to allow the patient to lead a normal and healthy life. Most people with asthma have triggers that cause their symptoms to get worse, some examples are exercise, cold weather or environmental factors like dust, chemicals, dander and smoke.
When a patient has asthma, the lungs are often inflamed or swollen. When they are exposed to a trigger the airways will swell even further which narrows the space that air moves in. On top of that the muscles that surround the lungs will tighten making it even harder to breathe. This is what is called an asthma attack.
According to the CDC, 1 in 13 people have asthma in the United States and it has been steadily increasing since the 1980s in all age, sex and racial groups. What is even more interesting is that it is more prevalent in Westernized nations than in more rural locations such as Africa. There is ongoing research as to why asthma continues to grow in prevalence. Some of the current ideas are the hygiene hypothesis which states that as our living conditions get cleaner our immune systems don’t develop the same way they used to leaving us more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases like asthma and allergies. While experts still believe this is a piece of the puzzle it doesn’t completely explain why the rates are as high as they are. Other ideas are the increased use of Tylenol in children which lower antioxidants, a lifestyle that is more sedentary leading to obesity, vitamin D deficiency, use of spray cleaner which irritates the lungs, and eating highly processed foods.
While there might not be a cure for this chronic disease there are many options when it comes to management. As chiropractors we look at how pressure on the nervous system could be contributing to the symptoms of asthma. In each area of the spine nerves branch off the spinal cord and go to different organs to allow information to be passed between the brain and the body. In order to allow for the lungs to function without interruption we look to the middle of the back, the thoracic spine, to find misalignments that could be blocking this information from being communicated. In children with asthma it is common to find spinal misalignments and muscle tightness in their back. We are seeing a huge increase in spinal misalignments in this part of the spine which in some limited cases can be caused by genetics. A much more common thing we see if poor posture due to the use of technology. When children are using tablets and other technology they are usually hunched over, increasing the curve in their back with their head down and chin tucked. The use of this posture causes the muscles of the upper back and neck to tighten in order to try to correct this posture. The more time is spent in this poor posture the more likely it is for the shape of the spine to slowly change, and not for the better.
We see that with the addition of gentle and effective chiropractic adjustments, changes in posture and habits, and increasing healthy foods and decreasing the exposure to toxins and triggers that children have less asthma symptoms. This may mean less attacks, decreased use of rescue inhalers and the ability to participate more in sports. If you are reading this post and your child has asthma it can be very enlightening to get your child’s spine checked. Chiropractic care is a conservative approach that can have many positive effects when it comes to your child’s health!