What is ARDS?
ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome is a fatal lung condition that prevents oxygen from getting into the blood and then into the lungs. It can be caused by several lung conditions, including aspiration of the stomach contents, bacterial and viral lung infections (including coronavirus infection), inhaling chemicals, pneumonia, lung transplant, and direct trauma to the lungs. ARDS leads to the accumulation of fluid in the alveoli (air sacs). This fluid buildup prevents oxygen from entering the bloodstream.
ARDS secondary to Covid-19 is more dangerous as there is no definitive cure for the disease. Coronavirus causes the accumulation of fluid in the lungs that makes them stiff and heavy. This decreases the natural ability of the lungs to expand and leads to breathing difficulty. In advanced stages, the level of oxygen in the blood becomes dangerously low, even if the patient receives artificial oxygen from a ventilator through a breathing tube. Symptoms usually appear within 24 to 48 hours of the illness or injury. Major symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Organ failure
Role of Acupuncture in treating ARDS
The primary goal of acupuncture therapy is to provide breathing support, reduce inflammation, and remove the accumulation of fluid from the lung alveoli. Recent research shows that TCM, and more specifically acupuncture, may be valuable treatment options in managing the symptoms of coronavirus-induced ARDS. Differing from western medicine, acupuncture sessions treat the patient’s body as a whole, stimulate the self-regulating function of the lungs and help restore self-rehabilitation ability to achieve full recovery.
Acupuncture works by stimulating the blood flow, which carries and transports oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body. It also helps reduce inflammation and decrease the production of fluid in the lungs. The increase in blood flow and reduced inflammation boosts the immune system and dilates the bronchioles that help relax respiratory muscles and improve breathing.
There are specific acupuncture points for treating lung diseases and improving the breathing function of the lungs. These include Kidney 27, Ren 17, and Lung 6. Stimulating these points with the help of tiny, sterile needles help loosen up the congestion, decrease the production of mucus, and open up the chest.
Research shows that regular sessions of acupuncture can help ease the symptoms of ARDS secondary to bacterial and viral infections and other causes. Acupuncture therapy appeared to reduce the corona-induced inflammatory response and protect pulmonary function by decreasing inflammation and the production of pro-inflammatory hormones. It is also linked to enhanced protein expression in the lungs, suggesting a direct effect on the restoration of the lung structure after the initial recovery from the coronavirus infection.