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Using Physiotherapy to help Asthma

World Asthma Day is an annual event that takes place on the first Tuesday of May. First observed in 1988, World Asthma Day not only aims to raise awareness about the condition, but also spread information about how it can be controlled. To mark World Asthma Day 2017, we are going to look at how physiotherapy can help you gain greater control.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition, where the airways to the lungs become irritated, causing them to swell, tighten up, and spasm. This causes tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. It is usually associated with allergies or other forms of hypersensitivity, such as hayfever.

Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma worldwide, with 9.8% of the population having been diagnosed as asthmatic. Although asthma can technically develop at any stage of life, it is most common amongst children, and usually improves with age. 18.9% of 13-18 year olds have asthma, with that figure dropping to about 7.1% for adults.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Physiotherapy can help asthmatics take control over their condition in a number of different ways. The first technique, and arguably the most important, is breathing retraining. While there are various forms are very effective medication to help deal with asthma attacks, they can happen at any moment. For this reason, it is important to know how to breathe should an attack occur when you are alone or without medicine. Although our survival instinct will tell us to try and breathe in as much as possible, this will make matters worse. Asthma attacks are problematic not only because they stop Oxygen getting into our lungs, but also because they stop Carbon Dioxide getting out. Deep breaths cause the lungs to fill up and become overinflated. To ensure this does not occur, your physiotherapist will teach you how to take smaller, shallower breaths, and keep the air circulating.

The exact techniques used will vary from patient to patient, but your physiotherapist will look at a number of common factors, such as the timing of your breathing, the rhythm, your triggers, your overall physical health, and much more. A common problem faced by asthmatics, particularly those who were diagnosed young or have an extreme case, is that they can often be put off physical activity. While this is not the case for everyone, it can unintentionally lead to a physically inactive lifestyle, which will exacerbate the effects of the condition over time. For this reason, some patients may find that their physiotherapy involves many unexpected forms of exercise. Depending on what triggers your attacks, your physiotherapist may recommend getting involved in anything from hiking to indoor workouts.

As with most public health campaigns, the aim of World Asthma Day is to raise awareness about the specifics and prevalence of asthma across the world. Apart from this, the day prides itself for its empowering message of putting the control back into the hands of the patients. This year, the event will take place on the 2nd of May. To learn more about the campaign, please click here.