The pleura are two delicate membranes which surround the lungs. The condition in which they become inflamed, as the result of either a bacterial or a viral infection, is known as pleurisy. It is characterised by sharp or stabbing pains in the chest or shoulder when a breath is taken.
Normally the pleura move smoothly against one another as the lungs expand and contract during breathing. A thin film of fluid lubricates the membranes. When an infection is present, the pleural fluid becomes sticky and the pleura rub against one another. This ‘pleural rub’ can be heard clearly through a stethoscope. Sometimes an excess of pleural fluid is produced, protecting the inflamed membranes from friction. This pleural effusion can be detected when a dull note is produced by tapping the chest wall. A raised temperature and general feeling of unwellness is a further symptom.
Pleurisy is generally a minor illness. However in some cases it may be a sign of a more serious disease such as pneumonia, a blood clot in the lung, lung cancer or tuberculosis. It is therefore imperative that a doctor be consulted before undertaking any form of complementary treatment.
Homeopathic remedies can be used to treat pleurisy. Chest and back compresses can help reduce internal inflammation. Large doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin A may be recommended by a naturopath.