MONDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acupuncture may help relieve shortness of breath during activity, Japanese researchers suggest.
COPD is a progressive lung condition that makes it hard to breathe; it is commonly caused by smoking or exposure to other toxins.
"The effects of acupuncture are large," said Dr. George Lewith, from the University of Southampton in Hampshire, England, co-author of an editorial accompanying the study. "This is particularly remarkable in a condition that seems largely unresponsive to more conventional treatments."
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice, involves the insertion of thin needles into certain points on the body to boost health and well-being. The researchers tested it in addition to standard medical care.
If this study can be duplicated and this effect is deemed valid, acupuncture may be a treatment that "can substantially improve the quality and potentially the quantity of people's lives who have [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]," Lewith said.
"Acupuncture is safe, and people with [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] should try it," he added. "We need to do further studies, in particular evaluating the cost effectiveness of this intervention."
The study was published in the May 14 online edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
There is no cure for COPD. Current treatment is directed toward slowing its progression and reducing flare-ups that require hospitalization.
By 2020, the disease is likely to be the third leading cause of death worldwide, the researchers noted.
For the study, a team led by Masao Suzuki, from Kyoto University and Meiji University of Integrative Medicine in Japan, randomly assigned 68 patients suffering from severe COPD to 12 weeks of acupuncture and standard medication, or a sham procedur
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