Acupuncture is often used in treating respiratory disorders. Allergic rhinitis is one of the major indications. In controlled studies, it has been shown that acupuncture is more effective than antihistamine drugs in the treatment of allergic rhinitis (111-115). Acupuncture’s lack of side-effects is a distinct advantage in treating this condition; however, its protective effect against allergen-provoked rhinitis has not been verified (116).
The acute symptoms of tonsillitis can be effectively relieved with acupuncture (117). Since there is no information about the incidence of complications secondary to tonsillitis treated with acupuncture, in clinical practice antibiotic therapy should still be considered the treatment of choice for acute tonsillitis. For sore throats from other causes, acupuncture treatment provides definite benefits, in contrast to a placebo and acupuncture refusal (118).
Although there are conflicting results from controlled trials in treating bronchial asthma with acupuncture, the majority of the reports suggest that acupuncture is effective (119-123) and that the effect is related to the points used (122). While bronchial asthma is not cured by acupuncture, it may be substantially relieved, at least for short periods of time. The success rates quoted in the literature are 60-70%. Acupuncture has a limited role in treating acute asthmatic attacks since it is a weak bronchodilator, but it may serve as a prophylactic measure over the long term. Controlled trials have shown that acupuncture brings about modest improvement in objective parameters, with significant subjective improvement (124). Prospective randomized single-blind studies of the effects of real and sham acupuncture on exercise-induced and metacholine-induced asthma revealed that real acupuncture provided better protection than did sham acupuncture (119), but it failed to modulate the bronchial hyperreactivity to histamine (125). Corticosteroid-dependent bronchial asthma may respond better to acupuncture treatment than other types: the required dosage of corticosteroids gradually decreases during the first weeks of acupuncture treatment (126). Acupuncture may also provide symptomatic improvement in the late stages of bronchial asthma, where there are complications of disabling breathlessness due to impaired lung function (127).