Breathing training for asthma patients

 Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the UK report that it has benefits, but doesn’t change the underlying disease.

First, the details.

  • 183 symptomatic asthma patients were randomly divided into 2 groups.
    • Physiotherapist-supervised breathing training
    • Asthma nurse delivered asthma education
  • Outcomes were assessed using a battery of questionnaires and lab tests.
  • The researcher did not know the patients’ treatment — single blind.

And, the results.

  • 1 month after treatment there was similar improvement in quality of life in both groups.
  • At 6 months however, there was a significant difference that favored breathing training.
  • There were also improvements with breathing training based on other questionnaires.
  • Breathing training was not associated with significant changes in airways physiology, inflammation, or hyper-responsiveness.

The bottom line?
Here’s a quick overview of breathing studies in patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In the past 2 years…
A literature review revealed that training the muscles of inspiration in COPD improves muscle strength and endurance. And patients benefit from less difficulty in breathing (dyspnea).

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden reported that before making widespread recommendations for using positive end-expiratory (PEP) breathing treatment, “more research is required to establish the benefit of the technique in patients with COPD.”

Alternate nostril breathing in healthy people resulted in significant increases in peak expiratory flow rate (exhale) and pulse pressure (change in blood pressure during a contraction of the heart). It might be helpful in patients with COPD.

In asthma, the Papworth method resulted in significantly greater improvement in respiratory symptoms than did controls.

In general, changes in breathing mechanics complement the treatment of asthma and COPD.

12/14/08 20:15 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.