Breathing exercises help asthma patients with quality of life

December 13, 2017, University of Southampton
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A study led by the University of Southampton has found that people who continue to get problems from their asthma, despite receiving standard treatment, experience an improved quality of life when they are taught breathing exercises. The majority of asthma patients have some degree of impaired quality of life.

Researchers, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), also found that the benefits of the exercises were similar, whether they were taught in person by a physiotherapist in three face-to-face sessions, or delivered digitally for use in their own home (in this study via DVD). Their findings are published in a paper in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The controlled trial recruited 655 UK adults who reported impaired -related quality of life. Participants were randomised to receive a breathing exercise intervention delivered via DVD (261 people), or face to face with a physiotherapist (132 people). A third 'control' group received 'usual care' (262 people), continuing to take normal asthma medication, with no further intervention.

Both the DVD and face to face physiotherapy programmes improved patients' asthma-related quality of life scores (over 12 months) compared with those receiving usual care, with improvements that are comparable to those achieved by increasing medication. Neither of the breathing retraining interventions (exercises) improved lung function or airway inflammation, suggesting they were not affecting the underlying biology of the disease. The programmes did not 'cure' asthma, despite improving people's experience of having it. The number of was lower in the breathing retraining groups, but the reductions were not at a level of statistical significance.

The NHS healthcare costs were lower for both breathing retraining groups than for the usual care control group, and were lowest when access was provided digitally.1 Savings made by delivering the programme in this way outweigh any technology provision costs. The team has made the contents of the DVD and the supporting booklet freely available through the website http://www.breathestudy.co.uk/.

Asthma affects more than five million people in the UK and costs the NHS and social care (including disability payments) more than £1 billion each year. It led to at least 6.3 million primary care consultations, and 1,160 asthma deaths in 2012. While can provide full symptom control for some, a recent European survey suggests this isn't the case for most.

First author on the paper, Professor Anne Bruton, of the University of Southampton, comments: "Our study provides valuable evidence to show that not only can these breathing exercises be of help to people with asthma, they can also be cost-effective - with teaching by DVD much cheaper than in person. Many patients have concerns about taking medicines long-term, so non-drug approaches to control asthma, like these exercises, can be of particular interest."

The NIHR was receptive to calls from patients, carers and clinicians to fund studies looking into ways that could help asthmatics manage their condition. Professor Hywel Williams, Director of the NIHR's Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme, says: "We are delighted to have funded this study in an area of research that is important to the public and medical professionals.

"The need for more research into the possible benefits of as a physical therapy for asthma was identified by the James Lind Alliance (JLA) after patients, carers and clinicians highlighted it among their top 10 questions for research into asthma.

"It is important that we continue to fund research in technologies that help people manage their conditions."

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research & Policy at the charity Asthma UK, says: "Excitingly, this study shows that video can be just as effective as face-to-face support in communicating with people with asthma and encouraging them to better manage their symptoms.

"It demonstrates how important technology can be in transforming healthcare and potentially the lives of the 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma. We're urging researchers and innovators to work together to develop ways to help people with asthma through digital means, whether that is through video, SMART inhalers that can monitor the effectiveness of treatment, or apps to help patients manage their symptoms."

Explore further: New research shows asthma drug's effectiveness over usual care alone

More information: The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, DOI: 10.1016/S2213-2600(17)30474-5

Related Stories

New research shows asthma drug's effectiveness over usual care alone

September 13, 2017
A new study co-authored by the University of Plymouth and published in The Lancet shows how an asthma drug was more effective at improving a patient's asthma control compared with their usual care.

Dysfunctional breathing often wrongly thought to be asthma

September 22, 2016
Many people with breathing difficulties remain undiagnosed or are diagnosed wrongly as having asthma when the problem might actually be dysfunctional breathing (DB). Information and breathing exercises can help these patients. ...

Study links optimal asthma control with reduced health-care costs

November 10, 2016
In a study of 736 asthma patients in Singapore, good asthma control resulted in a saving of S$65 (US$48) per physician visit. Compared with an average cost of S$214 (US$158) per visit, this reduction represents a cost saving ...

Study compares treatment and outcomes in asthma patients in two countries

August 9, 2017
In two countries with a Western lifestyle, similar health systems, and similar asthma prevalence, investigators observed differences in asthma management and treatment costs, despite comparable outcomes.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

Recommended for you

Nicotine mimics may have therapeutic effect on inflammatory diseases

July 12, 2018
Stanford researchers discovered that a receptor that binds to nicotine and to clusters of beta-amyloid molecules is found on certain types of immune cells that can act as suppressors and regulators of the immune system.

Study shows BPA risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease

July 5, 2018
A recent study in a preclinical model of inflammatory bowel disease shows dietary exposure to bisphenol-A, or BPA, found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, can increase mortality and worsen its symptoms.

Mid- to late-life increases in marker of chronic inflammation tied to dementia

July 2, 2018
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have added to evidence that rising and chronic inflammation as measured by a biomarker in the blood in middle and late age are linked to visible structural changes in the brains of people with ...

Research team diagnoses asthma with nasal brush test

June 11, 2018
Mount Sinai researchers have identified a genetic biomarker of asthma that can be tested for using a simple nasal brush and basic follow-up data analysis. This inexpensive diagnostic test can accurately identify mild to moderate ...

Eosinophilic esophagitis may be due to missing protein

June 7, 2018
Scientists have discovered that the absence of a specific protein in cells lining the esophagus may cause inflammation and tissue damage in people with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). EoE affects as many as 150,000 people ...

Mouse study links triclosan, a common antimicrobial, to colonic inflammation

May 30, 2018
A large research team led by senior author Guodong Zhang at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reports that the antimicrobial ingredient triclosan, found in hand soaps and toothpastes among other products, could have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.