Breathing is the process by which your body takes in "raw air" and makes it into "food" for cells, tissues and organs. Because raw air is often too cold, dry and dirty to use immediately, it must first be filtered, warmed, cleansed and humidified by "air conditioning" apparatus in your nose and nasal cavities before it enters your trachea or "windpipe," bronchi and lungs. Your trachea is a tube in your throat surrounded by 15 to 20 stuff rings of cartilage so that it never closes (and suffocates you). If you place your fingers under your Adam's apple or larynx you can feel the trachea and its rings.
The Bronchi and Lungs
In your chest your trachea divides into two branches - the left and right bronchi. They enter the lungs, where they branch over and over to form what looks like an upside-down tree (the bronchial tree). The tiniest branches are called the bronchioles, and these actually touch the lungs. It is here where oxygen enters the blood and carbon dioxide and water vapor leave it, to be exhaled out your mouth and nose. Of course the bronchi and bronchioles must remain clear at all times and that is precisely what does not happen to asthmatics, those suffering from the condition known as bronchial asthma, when they suffer an "attack."
During an asthmatic attack the bronchioles become swollen, go into spasm and fill with mucus. Asthmatics feel as if they're being strangled; they struggle to get air into their lungs and once in, the air is trapped behind the mucus and then it's nearly impossible to exhale. Asthmatics struggle for every breath, literally gasping and wheezing for life. Attacks can last from several minutes to several hours and vary greatly in severity. In some patients the wheezing, gasping and struggling go on continuously to a greater or lesser degree. In long-time sufferers, "the chest becomes...a 'barrel chest' (permanently enlarged)." Attacks may be triggered by allergic reactions, but they may also be set off by emotional stress, physical exertion or irritants like cigarette smoke.
Asthma was never a killing disease. Medical folk wisdom used to hold that "no child ever dies of asthma," but since the 1960's there has been an "epidemic" of asthma deaths among young persons. In 1985, there were about 300 deaths from asthma, but since 1994, 5,000 Americans die from this condition each year with over fifteen million suffering from it. Asthma is now the leading chronic illness among children. Why? Many scientists do not know. Childhood vaccinations have been suspected as a possible cause for this increase.
In chronic bronchitis, there is increased mucous secretion in the trachea and bronchial tubes which causes a mucous cough or "smoker's cough," - so called because cigarette smoking is the condition's most important single cause. In a non-smoking adult, bronchitis is very rare and is usually associated with an allergy (bronchitis is more common among the children of smokers than of non-smokers.)
Chronic emphysema is usually associated with long-term smoking, many bronchioles are blocked, and the lung itself is destroyed with its breathing surface reduced to less than one-quarter normal size. With less lung, the blood gets less oxygen, and this can cause high blood pressure, which can overload the right side of the heart and cause right heart failure. People with chronic emphysema can suffer for years from severe "air hunger" (hypoxia) and too much carbon dioxide in the blood (hypercania). These conditions cause lethargy, muscle weakness, impairment of mental function and, in severe cases, a slow death.
The Standard Medical Approach
The standard medical approach offers no cure for asthma, bronchitis or emphysema. Patients are told to avoid physical or emotional irritants and given temporary relief with drugs like cortisone or brochodilator inhalers. These drugs may cause severe side effects including addition. Sadly, heavy use of common asthma drugs (beta-agonists and theophylline) have been linked to a greater risk of dying from the disease. Desensitization shots, similar to those given for hay fever, have varying effectiveness with asthmatics.
Many people with respiratory ailments feel condemned to a life-time of taking drugs without ever being rid of their condition. Many others, however, are turning to the drugless healing of chiropractic.
The Chiropractic Approach
Chiropractic benefit for asthma and respiratory problems was first noticed in clinical histories. Typical of such reports is that of a 6 year old boy who had asthma since age 3 and was using inhalers up to three times a day. He received chiropractic care. Adjustments were delivered to the cervical, thoracic and lumbar area. Significant progress. Could run during soccer games, slept more soundly. Hardly ever had bouts with mucous clogged nasal passages...inhalant use stopped.
In another case history, a 34 month old boy with asthma and enuresis (bed wetting) had not responded to medical care. More than 20 emergency hospital visits had taken place for the asthma attacks during the 12 month history. Three chiropractic adjustments were administered over an 11 day period and the asthma symptoms and enuresis ceased for more than 8 weeks. The asthma and enuresis recurred following a minor fall from a step ladder but disappeared after adjustments. After a two year follow up, the mother reported no recurrence of the asthma or the enuresis.
Correction of Subluxations
Please keep in mind that the chiropractor's primary aim is to remove nerve interference or spinal stress - chiropractors care for the person who has the disease rather than the disease in the person. A chiropractor will follow generally the same approach with each patient; correction of nervous system and spinal stress. Relieved of these subluxations, the patient will be in a better position to heal him/herself.
The fact that nearly half of all children with asthma will become symptom free before they become adults (they grow out of it) demonstrates that the body's natural healing ability does affect the course of the disease.
The Spine and Breathing
There is an intimate connection between the spinal column, the nervous system and the breathing apparatus. The osteopathic writer Stoddard has observed, "In asthma the mechanical factor may be so important that until the mechanics are put right the symptoms were persist."
Many sufferers of respiratory problems have discovered an alternative to conventional medical bronchodilators, expectorants and corticosteroids. Those with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other chronic lung conditions need to ensure their lungs and bronchi are receiving uninterrupted nerve communication from their spines. Chiropractic is the only healing art that can free people from vertebral subluxations and, in many cases, from a lifetime of taking drugs for their "incurable" condition.