Asthma is a common condition, affecting up to 18 per cent of the world’s population. Drug treatments can be very effective and provide complete symptom control for some people, however others report that they have persisting symptoms and impaired quality of life even when on these treatments.
Furthermore, many people have particular interest in non-pharmacological treatments and self-management strategies, with a number of people reporting they use breathing techniques to assist with symptom control. Despite this, many current asthma management programs don’t include self-management strategies like breathing retraining. Researchers have investigated whether breathing retraining could improve asthma-related quality of life in people with mild and moderate asthma with persisting symptoms.
The 12 month study involved three groups randomised to receive either self-guided breathing retraining, face-to-face physiotherapy or usual care. Participants were adults with asthma living in the UK. The self-guided breathing retraining program was delivered digitally via DVD, with a supporting printed booklet. It was based on an existing program delivered by physiotherapists. Participants in the face-to-face physiotherapy group had sessions with a respiratory physiotherapist trained in providing breathing retraining. Asthma-related quality of life was assessed in addition to asthma control, airway physiology and respiratory capacity.
The results found an equivalent benefit in asthma-related quality of life in the groups receiving face-to-face physiotherapy and self-guided breathing retraining via DVD. The latter method was cost-effective and considered acceptable by participants.
This study suggests that a self-guided, digitally delivered breathing retraining program may be an affordable and effective way to improve asthma-related quality of life in people with mild and moderate, poorly controlled asthma. This treatment should not replace medication but rather may be beneficial to support pharmacological treatments and is easily accessible to broad populations through digital delivery.