By Michael Haught LMT, Keystone Body Therapies

November 07, 2016
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a very common issue in America. It is a progressive disease that is caused by chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which makes it increasingly difficult to breathe over time. Symptoms of COPD can be shortness of breath, chronic cough with mucus, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and fatigue. At the current time, there is no cure for this awful disease, but there are treatments available. 
Massage is making leaps and bounds in how it is used to treat diseases such as COPD. Throughout the progression of this disease there are different modalities that can help bring you some relief and increase your ability to breathe. Depending on the stage and severity of the disease there are many modalities that may be used to bring some comfort. 
In the early stages of COPD, myofascial release or Swedish massage may be used. These modalities are used to increase blood flow, loosen up tight muscles, and allow the body to move more freely. By allowing the body to move more freely and fluidly, the ribcage is able to open up more to allow for more air to be brought to the lungs. With all of these modalities, you will feel more grounded, be more relaxed, as well as notice a significant decrease in overall pain. 
As the condition worsens, lymphatic massage may be used. In lymphatic massage, the main objective of the sessions is to move lymph that may become stagnant, causing inflammation. Lymph is a clear to yellowish watery fluid that circulates through body tissues, picking up fats, bacteria, and other unwanted materials, and filtering them out through the lymphatic system. Because lymph does not have a central pump, it relies on body and muscle movement to circulate throughout the body. Massage of the chest and back to move excess lymph from the area will allow the lungs to open up more fully, thus allowing you to breathe easier. 
When in the final stages of COPD where it is difficult to move or do the simplest of daily activities without running short of breath, chair massage may be the best solution. In chair massage, the client is seated, so there is not the extra body weight on the chest cavity. The main focus would be on the back, so there is extra time to move lymph and loosen up the muscles around the ribs that assist in labored breathing as well. Aromatherapy is also a good addition to sessions at any stage, and certain essential oils have healing properties that will assist with breathing. 
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