By Sara Castoldi
Childhood asthma is one of the most common respiratory disorders worldwide, with increased prevalence in Western societies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the most common childhood disease and is more likely found in males.
There are many driving factors in the onset of asthma including exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy, mode of birth delivery, viral respiratory illness, obesity, diet, hygiene and toxic exposure. However, the exact cause remains unknown.
Though there is no cure for asthma, it rarely continues into adult life and there are certainly things that can be done to reduce the severity of the condition. So, what can be done to manage childhood asthma and how can osteopathy help?
Breastfeeding is strongly associated with the reduction of respiratory illness in later childhood and adolescence. Maternal milk, apart from its nutritional components, has been shown to have a protective role in the newborn infant and also plays an important role in the development of a healthy immune system.
Furthermore, chronic respiratory complaints, such as rhinitis and asthma, may be attributed to food allergies and it may therefore be worth consulting with your GP or nutritional therapist.
In the last few decades, a dramatic increased incidence of asthma has been observed and our modern industrialised lifestyle appears to play a significant role in the increased prevalence of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
It has been theorised that the increased use of certain medications, including antibiotics, may stunt the growth of a developing immune system, leading to increased prevalence of respiratory disease.
It is also important to consider the role of psychosocial factors such as emotional stress of both mother and infant. Maternal anxiety or depression can result in unresponsive caregiving in early infancy, which may cause distress in an infant. This has been strongly associated with the development of childhood asthma and allergies.
Therefore, it is imperative that you seek help for any emotional difficulties that you may experience both during and after pregnancy.
How can osteopathy help?
The causes of asthma remain unknown and although several factors have been identified, an effective therapeutic intervention is yet to be established. Osteopathic manipulative treatment is a safe and non-invasive option of treatment. An osteopath aims to release asthma-related symptoms in three specific ways;
By increasing mobility
The osteopath uses techniques that focus on increasing the mobility of the rib cage and upper back, helping to maximise the effectiveness of the respiratory cycle. In addition, patients with asthma are likely to suffer from muscular neck pain that can easily been released during treatment. The consideration of how bones, joints and muscles are involved in respiration is essential, and is clearly not addressed by medication.
Working on the nervous system
Breathing is an involuntary process controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, treatments that restore motion to the head, neck and back will improve nerve flow to the lungs and diaphragm. This will make breathing feel easier for the child and will consequently result in less aches and pains caused by laboured breathing.
Osteopathy can facilitate lymphatic flow to and from the lungs reducing the congregation of phlegm on the chest. When fluids are unable to drain properly, the accumulation may lead to secondary diseases. Treatment can improve lymphatic drainage and reduce congestion in the airways of patients with asthma.
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