According to Asthma UK, 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving asthma treatments, and the latest NHS data suggests that 1 in 4 people will suffer from allergies at some point in their lives.
Often these conditions are lifelong issues that sufferers will struggle to manage, but thankfully, alternative therapies such as acupuncture can be highly effective when used independently or in conjunction with medication.
How can acupuncture help asthma and allergies?
Acupuncture is regularly used by millions of patients both privately and within the NHS across the UK every year. What was once seen as a speculative traditional Chinese medical treatment has now been recognised by the NHS and the WHO for its unique and wide-ranging health benefits.
Acupuncture is generally believed to stimulate the central nervous system, creating biochemical changes that stimulate the body’s natural healing response and promotes physical and mental wellbeing.
In terms of asthma and allergies, acupuncture is regularly used as a complementary therapy that aids in boosting the effectiveness of treatments such as inhalers to manage symptoms. Practitioners routinely use both acupuncture and acupressure to provide short term relief to sufferers.
Acupressure is often seen as acupuncture without the needles and is a manual therapy that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Similarly to acupuncture, acupressure works by stimulating acupoints on the body through practitioners applying pressure to the skin with their hands and elbows. Conversely, acupuncture involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into the skin, which is then activated using gentle hand movements.
The idea of both therapies is to help asthma and allergy sufferers by stimulating nerves located in the muscles and muscle tissues. In turn, this will release endorphins and other neurochemical messengers around the body to alter the way the body processes pain. It may also be effective in reducing inflammation- a key symptom suffered by patients with asthma and allergies. By placing the correct pressure level onto these acupoints, it is believed in the teachings of traditional Chinese medicine that the body’s vital life energy qi (pronounced chee) will be able to move through pathways in the body called meridians. Acupressure and acupuncture aim to release any blockages in the body, allowing the energy to flow freely and help to rebalance the body- freeing asthma and allergy sufferers of their persisting symptoms.
Over the past few decades, there have been a range of ongoing studies, research and clinical trials exploring the effects of acupuncture and acupressure therapies on the symptoms of asthma and allergies.
The British Acupuncture Council, who are the leading self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the UK, show supporting evidence for the use of acupuncture to treat allergies. Their website states that ‘Evidence from systematic reviews suggests that acupuncture and moxibustion may be a safe and effective treatment for allergies with benefits over conventional medicine’.
Trained acupuncturists will take a different approach to each patient to ensure their therapy is specifically tailored to their needs, lifestyle and symptoms. When it comes to acupuncture for asthma and allergies, the key acupoints usually targeted are the stomach, lung, bladder and kidney.
Acupuncture points for skin allergies
When triggered, allergies can cause a range of skin conditions to appear, ranging from contact dermatitis to eczema. Currently, eczema in its most common form, atopic eczema, affects 1 in 5 children and 1 in 10 adults in the UK, making it one of the most prevalent skin conditions.
Acupuncturists will often target a range of acupoints to help patients with these types of skin allergies, such as:
- Large Intestine 4 (LI4)- This acupuncture point is commonly used as it can help strengthen the patient’s immune system, relieve pain and treat the allergy. It is especially useful for helping skin allergies as it may provide relief to irritated and inflamed skin.
- Large Intestine 11 (LI11)- Another key point often used by acupuncturists to boost the immune system whilst reducing inflammation on the skin, clearing heat and alleviating the symptoms of dry and itchy skin.
- Spleen 6 (SP6)- As many skin allergies are triggered by mental and emotional imbalances, this acupoint is often used to promote relaxation and mental wellbeing by alleviating feelings of anxiety and insomnia. It can also help to reduce inflammation and irritation on the skin.
- Spleen 10 (SP10)- Often used in conjunction with SP6, this acupoint is also used to reduce painful skin conditions and alleviate itchy and inflamed skin.
- Stomach 36 (ST36)- This point can aid in reducing pain caused by skin conditions whilst boosting the immune system.
- Liver 3 (LV3)- LV3 is often used to help boost the immune system and improve circulation to combat skin conditions. It may help calm and rebalance the nervous system, relieving feelings of stress and anxiety that could be contributing to the skin allergy.
Acupuncture points for animal allergies
It is estimated that 1 in 10 pet owners are allergic to their pets in the UK alone, resulting in a range of allergic reactions. Thankfully, there is a range of acupoints used by practitioners to relieve the symptoms.
Some of the most commonly targeted points are:
- Large Intestine 11 (LI11)- Practitioners will first seek to boost the immune system when dealing with pet allergies, which is why LI11 is often targeted. It can help reduce any itching and skin issues that arise as a result of an animal allergy.
- Large Intestine 4 (LI4)- This acupoint is helpful in treating pet allergy related dermatological issues and strengthening the immune system.
Acupuncture points for seasonal allergies
According to data from the NHS, one in four people in the UK has hay fever which equates to about 16 million people. Seasonal allergies are increasingly common in the UK, which is why acupuncturists will often use a variety of acupoints to assist with the various symptoms of seasonal allergies; some of which are:
- Large Intestine 11 (LI11)- Used to boost the body’s immune system and reduce any itching seasonal allergies are causing.
- Stomach 36 (ST36)- Again, a key point that aids in boosting the immune system and balancing the body.
- Lung 7 (L7)- This acupoint is used to strengthen the body’s resistance and lessen the symptoms of seasonal allergies such as a runny nose and sore throat.
- Bladder 2 (UB2)- This point is regularly used for hay fever sufferers who are experiencing redness and swelling around their eyes to alleviate the itching and pain.
- Large Intestine 20 (LI20)- This point can help alleviate congestion and reduce the frequency of sneezing caused by allergens such as dust and pollen.
- Large Intestine 4 (LI4)- Used by acupuncturists to reduce painful swelling and red eyes and relieve the pain caused by sore throats and headaches.
- Liver 2 (LR2)- Another point commonly used for patients with swollen and painful eyes and painful throats.
Acupuncture points for asthma attack
According to Asthma UK, every 10 seconds, someone is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK. When used in conjunction with traditional medication, acupuncture sessions can be incredibly effective in helping sufferers to manage their asthma and reduce the frequency/severity of attacks. Many acupoints may be used to treat asthma symptoms, such as:
- Bladder 13 (UB13)- This is the main point for all lung-related issues and can help relieve patients of coughs, bronchitis, asthma, nasal congestion, sore throats, shortness of breath, and more.
- Lung 1 (L1)- As a lung based acupoint, it can help relieve coughs, wheeze and asthma symptoms.
- Kidney 27 (KD27)- This point aims to provide instant relief by opening and relaxing the chest.
It can be helpful with alleviating asthma, constricted breathing, coughs and chest tightness – all symptoms of asthma attacks.
Acupressure at home
If you are struggling with managing your allergies, why not try our Acupressure at Home techniques featured in our video here. This video explains how you can activate the point on the ear, which helps with allergies such as hay fever.
Get in touch
To find out more about how acupuncture and acupressure could help you manage your asthma and allergy symptoms, feel free to visit our dedicated page on Acupuncture for Allergies, Asthma and Hayfever.
For more information on any of our treatments or advice, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Acupuncture That Works on 0800 051 76 88. We are happy to offer a free initial consultation to discuss a range of treatment options that may help provide short term relief if you are suffering from allergies, hay fever or asthma.