Papworth method is a sequence of breathing and relaxation exercises developed at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire in the 1960s.

It hadn’t been studied ’til now.

First, the details.

  • 85 patients were randomly assigned to a control group or to 5 Papworth breathing sessions of treatment.
  • Both groups received usual medical care.

And, the results.

  • Following treatment and 12-months later, patients taught the Papworth method experienced significantly greater improvement in respiratory symptoms than did controls.
  • Using the Papworth method was associated with reductions in anxiety and depression, as well as dysfunctional breathing.
  • However, there were no differences in any objective measures of respiratory function except for relaxed breathing rate. has an audio presentation of the study.

The bottom line?
Symptomatic improvement as a result of Buteyko therapy — another form of breathing retraining — was reviewed here. This is not meant to imply that Buteyko and Papworth are the same. But there are so few well-done studies of breathing retraining that combining them is a necessary compromise in order reach preliminary conclusions on its value.

To this end, the Cochrane Collaboration assessed the evidence for breathing retraining in the treatment of patients with asthma. Among 45 studies, they found 7 worth reviewing.

  • 2 studies demonstrated significant reductions in rescue bronchodilator use.
  • 3 studies showed reductions in acute exacerbations.
  • 2 studies showed significant improvements in quality of life.

Overall, benefits of breathing exercises were found. The reviewers concluded, “There is therefore a need for large scale trials involving breathing retraining in order to observe its effectiveness in the treatment and management of asthma.”

People with difficulty breathing due to asthma or other chronic diseases of the lung should ask their healthcare professional for more information about breathing retraining as a complement to their drug therapy.

6/29/07 22:20 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.