Massage and Asthma
Asthma is a long-term condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. Caring for a chronic condition such as asthma can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it can be controlled.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Some people have long periods without symptoms, while others may always experience difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks occur when something triggers the inflammation of the respiratory system. Flare-ups can be severe—sometimes even life- threatening.
Asthma attacks are generally caused by one or more triggers, including:
- A cold, flu, bronchitis, or sinus infection
- Allergens including dust mites, tree and grass pollen, mold, and animal dander
- Irritants that include tobacco smoke, strong fragrances, and air pollution
- Certain foods and food additives
- Aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Strenuous exercise
- Changes in weather
- Strong emotions such as anxiety, stress, grief and anger
The most obvious way to treat asthma is to try to prevent attacks. This is usually done with regular use of anti- inflammatory medications, inhaled steroids and leukotriene inhibitors. Once an asthma attack is underway, quick-acting medications like corticosteroids may be able to relieve it.
Is massage okay for someone with asthma?
Yes, massage can help an individual with asthma to relieve some of the tight muscles due to wheezing, coughing and other common symptoms.
Massage is never indicated during an attack. However, between attacks it is indicated to work on specific muscle groups which help to improve muscle function.
The following muscles are commonly overdeveloped and chronically tight in individuals who don’t breathe easily:
- Intercostals – between the ribs
- Scalenes – deep on sides of neck
- Serratus Posterior Inferior – deep on ribs at mid-back
- Diaphragm – dome shaped muscle separating the chest from the abdomen
- SCM – thick and dense on front neck
- Trapezius – mid-to upper back, shoulders up to base of skull
- Erector Spinae – deep along both sides of spine
- Pectoralis major and minor – front chest
What can you do?
It is important to remember that you are a key part of controlling your asthma. Here are a few ways you can take an active part in your treatment:
- Try keeping an asthma diary to track your specific asthma triggers.
- Be sure to keep all of your health care providers fully informed. This includes talking to them about any medications or herbs you may be taking, as well as any changes in your symptoms.
- Follow your practitioner’s recommendations for self-care. These might include exercises such as Qi Gong, yoga, dietary changes
- Practice stress-relief measures such as meditation.
- Schedule regular massage sessions to reduce stress and address specific muscle groups that restrict breathing.
- By making positive lifestyle choices and working closely with your practitioner, you’ll truly be taking charge of your asthma— and your life.