Asthma is a major world health problem associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In China, herbal medicine and acupuncture have traditionally been utilised in the treatment of lung disease, including asthma.
A recent article published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM) reveals that a large randomised controlled trial, involving patients with allergic asthma, found that an integrative medicine approach, in which acupuncture is added to routine care, demonstrated improvements in the quality of life and physical and mental health for those receiving acupuncture.
The study in Germany was part of a governmental assessment of the practice.
The aim of the study was to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture in addition to routine care in patients with allergic asthma compared to treatment with routine care alone.
A total of 1445 patients with allergic asthma took part in the randomised and nonrandomised groups, they received up to 15 acupuncture sessions during the first 3 months and no acupuncture between 3 and 6 months.
The aim was to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture in general medical practice. Treatment, including the number of needles used and sites of needle placement, was left to the physicians’ discretion. Only disposable, single-use needles were allowed. In addition, only manual needle stimulation was allowed.
All trial patients received routine care in addition to study treatment.
In the randomised part, acupuncture was associated with an improvement in the AQLQ Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire score compared to the control group (difference acupuncture vs. control group 0.7 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.5–1.0]) as well as in the physical component scale and the mental component scale of the SF-36 (physical: 2.5 [1.0–4.0]; mental 4.0 [2.1–6.0]) after 3 months.
The patients taking part benefitted from having acupuncture and found that their quality of life and physical and mental health improved receiving acupuncture.
The study results are encouraging and reveal that the use of acupuncture, as an adjunct, to the routine care of allergic bronchial asthma was superior to routine care alone in improving both specific symptoms and general quality of life.
For more information on alternative treatments for asthma visit asthma UK