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Massage Therapy & Lung Disease: Asthma, Emphysema & Bronchitis

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease where the respiratory tract can suddenly narrow, causing wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.  Swelling and spasm of the airways restrict air flow.  If left untreated or treatment is delayed, severe asthma attacks can be fatal, in fact, 500 Canadians die each year from asthma.

What Causes Asthma?

Asthma triggers may include food allergies, environmental allergies, pollutants, cold air and exercise. Puffers or inhalers are often used to dilate the airways to allow the person to breathe and get enough oxygen.

What is Emphysema?

Emphysema is a condition where the lining of the lungs is damaged (often due to smoking).  Due to this damage, the surface area for absorbing oxygen is decreased. This can cause shortness of breath and insufficient oxygen for healthy tissue function.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchi, the tubes that lead into the lungs. Inflammed bronchi don’t allow adequate air through and may cause shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Allergies, viral or bacterial infections can trigger bronchitis.

How Can Massage Therapy Help Lung Conditions?

Respiratory problems like these may benefit from massage therapy through a few different mechanisms.  Certain massage therapy techniques can help clear the lungs of mucous and fluid.   Promoting relaxation and reducing stress can help reduce inflammation and muscle spasm in the airways.

What Does the Research Say About Massage Therapy for Lung Conditions

  • A beneficial role for massage therapy in pediatric asthma is suggested. It improved the key pulmonary functions of the children, namely, FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio (Fattah, MA et al, 2011).
  • All studies have shown that massage therapy has a significantly positive effect on children with asthma.  It improves the pulmonary function parameters of the large airway, reduces the plasma concentrations of Platelet Activating Factor (PAF) and prostaglandin, and increases the levels of PAF-AH and DP1; therefore, it greatly improves pulmonary function (Wu, J et al, 2017)
  • The findings of this study suggest that pulmonary rehabilitation (combined relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, massage therapy and physical exercise) can increase vital capacity in some patients with chronic pulmonary emphysema (Inoue, M et al, 1996)

Massage Therapy for Lung Conditions Research

J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Nov;17(11):1065-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0758.
Pulmonary functions of children with asthma improve following massage therapy.
Fattah MA1, Hamdy B.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:5620568. doi: 10.1155/2017/5620568. Epub 2017 May 21.
Massage Therapy in Children with Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Wu J1, Yang XW2, Zhang M2.

Nihon Kyobu Shikkan Gakkai Zasshi. 1996 Nov;34(11):1182-8.
[Effects of pulmonary rehabilitation on vital capacity in patients with chronic pulmonary emphysema].
Inoue M1, Ohtsu I, Tomioka S, Hagiya M, Sumi M, Aoki H, Homma T, Hasegawa S.