Breathing Technique Cuts Asthma Symptoms

Papworth method emphasizes nose breathing, adjusting breaths to activity

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FRIDAY, July 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A breathing technique known as the Papworth method can cut asthma symptoms by a third, a new study finds.

The Papworth method is a sequence of breathing and relaxation exercises developed in the 1960s. The training involves a diaphragmatic breathing technique, emphasizes nose breathing and the development of a breathing pattern to suit current activity. The breathing exercises are accompanied by relaxation training and education focused on helping people integrate the exercises into their daily life and recognize the early signs of stress.

The study, published online ahead of print in Thorax, included 85 people with mild asthma. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either five sessions of treatment by the Papworth method in addition to their medical care, or to continue to rely on their usual drug therapy.

After the sessions had finished, the participants filled out the St. George's Respiratory System Questionnaire to assess their asthma symptoms.

According to researchers at University College London, people who had been treated with the Papworth method scored an average of 21.8 on the questionnaire, compared with an average score of 32.8 for those who did not receive treatment, indicating that treatment was associated with an approximate one-third reduction in asthma symptoms.

And the reduction in symptoms appeared to last. At 12 months, the participants who had used the Papworth method scored 24.9 on the questionnaire, compared with a score of 33.5 among those who did not use the breathing strategy.

Use of the Papworth method was also associated with less depression and anxiety, and symptoms from inappropriate breathing habits were reduced. In addition, the technique improved relaxed breathing rate.

The Papworth method was not associated with significant changes in objective measures of lung function, suggesting that treatments with the Papworth method "do not improve the chronic underlying physiological causes of asthma but rather their manifestation," according to the authors of the study.

More information

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about asthma.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, June 28, 2007

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