Asthma and the Role of Osteopathy

Everyone knows someone who suffers from asthma. Unfortunately Australia has rates which some have speculated to be as high as 1 in 10. Though we don’t often think about the ways in which it affects the body.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition which leads to changes in the lining of the airways. The inflammation is normally triggered by exposure to an allergen. These changes decrease the body’s ability to exhale (breathe out), leading to air-trapping and hyper-inflation of the lungs. In other words – air is able to enter the lungs, but is restricted when trying to leave. This causes the sufferer episodic attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and a cough.

It is now conventional to categorise Asthma into groups based on their inciting factors. Groups include allergic (most common), exercise/drug-induced, air pollution and occupational, with each differing slightly in their mechanism. Asthma sufferers are typically aware of what triggers symptoms and can manage exposure to these factors, though this is not always effective.


Studies have shown that particular body composition and postures have been linked with asthmatics(2). Some studies(3) have even suggested that certain postures are linked with an increase in the severity of symptoms.

These postures include:

  • Thoracic kyphosis (arching of the mid back), which can reduce lung volume
  • Increased forward head carriage, which reduces maximum inspiratory pressure and causes fatigue of the deep flexor muscles of the neck.
  • Decreased cervical and thoracic mobility
  • Shortening of the pectoral and cervical muscles
  • Elevated and adducted shoulders

The combination of these postures are certainly not a cause of asthma – in fact, they are generally developed due to the changes asthma has on the sufferers lung capacity. However they can tend to further exacerbate the condition by decreasing lung compliance, increase fatigue of respiratory muscles and diminishing overall pulmonary function.


Osteopathic treatment maybe isn’t the first intervention you would associate with Asthma – and nor should it be!
First-line therapy for the management of Asthma is medication. Preventative medication (corticosteroids), relieving medication (Ventolin etc) and symptom controllers (oral corticosteroids) are extremely important in the management of asthma and should not be replaced by manual therapy.
There is, however, a large amount of structural work Osteopaths can do with hands on skills to be able to assist breathing efficiency of asthmatics. This is based on the postures noted above!


Your Osteopath will base techniques used on an initial assessment of posture and movement behaviour. Techniques commonly used include:

  • Mobilisation techniques aimed at improving the range of motion available in the cervical (neck) and thoracic (mid back) regions.
  • Reduce muscle tone of muscles of inspiration (including the diaphragm).
  • Strengthen inspiratory muscles susceptible to fatigue.
  • Decreasing restrictions through the ribs and anterior chest
  • Facilitating nerve control of the chest
  • Mobilisation of blood and fluid supply to the bronchi and lungs.



Asthma can have serious and immediate consequences when not managed correctly. Formulating a suitable written Asthma Action Plan with your GP is an important (and often overlooked) first step in dealing with your asthma symptoms (see image). Combining this with regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is the best way to attack asthma head on. Total Balance’s own accredited dietician Laura has written about how to manage asthma with your diet which is a great place to start for some more information.

Asthma Australia also has some fantastic downloadable resources which are sure to answer any more questions you may have.

If you or a friend/family member suffers from asthma and would like to explore the benefits Osteopathy has on the condition, please call us at the clinic (9553 8085) or book in an appointment.



Dr. Dan East, Osteopath at Total Balance Healthcare


Disclaimer: This blog post is an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Any other questions not answered here? Get in touch with us!

Phone: (03) 97738085

1. Australia, A. (2019). National Asthma Council Australia. The Hidden Cost of Asthma 2015 Report.
2. López-de-Uralde-Villanueva, I., Candelas-Fernández, P., de-Diego-Cano, B., Mínguez-Calzada, O., & Del Corral, T. (2018). The effectiveness of combining inspiratory muscle training with manual therapy and a therapeutic exercise program on maximum inspiratory pressure in adults with asthma: a randomized clinical trial. Clinical rehabilitation, 32(6), 752-765.
3. Lopes, E. A., Fanelli-Galvani, A., Prisco, C. C., Gonçalves, R. C., Jacob, C. M., Cabral, A. L., … & Carvalho, C. R. (2007). Assessment of muscle shortening and static posture in children with persistent asthma. European journal of pediatrics, 166(7), 715-721.


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