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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
Breathing technique 'aids asthma'
Asthma generic picture
The technique would complement medication, not replace it
An old-fashioned breathing and relaxation technique could help those with asthma, research suggests.

In a trial of 85 people with mild asthma, the symptoms of those using the Papworth method alongside drugs were significantly eased, Thorax reports.

The 1960s technique involves focusing on the diaphragm while breathing, and emphasises breathing through the nose, accompanied by relaxation training.

It became forgotten as a treatment as medication for asthma improved.

Those who continued to rely solely on their medication scored 33.5 in the St George's Respiratory Syndrome Questionnaire - a survey which asks patients questions such as how often they have coughed, wheezed or brought up phlegm.

Those who had used the Papworth method for 12 months scored 24.9 on the scale which measures the severity of symptoms out of 100. A non-asthma patient is likely to score 11 or 12.

The difference of nearly nine points between those who used the technique and those who did not was seen as clinically significant, according to researcher Elizabeth Holloway of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL.

Keep breathing

The breathing technique is accompanied by relaxation training and education to help people integrate it into their everyday lives - using it while they sit, stand, walk and talk.

Dr Mike Thomas, Senior Research Fellow at Asthma UK, welcomed the study.

"It is also consistent with other studies from Australia and the UK which show that breathing exercises can help to reduce the need for reliever medication and can improve the quality of life of people with asthma.

"It is however vital that people with asthma continue to take their prescribed medication alongside any additional breathing training."

More than 5.2 million people in the UK are being treated for asthma. It affects approximately one in 12 adults and one in 10 children.

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