Papworth Exercises Help Asthmatics Breathe Easier

June 29, 2007

LONDON -- A program of breathing and relaxation exercises known as the Papworth method eases the symptoms of asthma significantly -- largely without change in underlying lung function, researchers here said.

LONDON, June 29 -- A program of breathing and relaxation exercises known as the Papworth method eases the symptoms of asthma significantly -- largely without change in underlying lung function, researchers here said.

In the first randomized controlled trial of the technique, in use since the 1960s, the Papworth method significantly reduced symptom scores (P=0.007), eased anxiety (P=0.006) and depression (P=0.03), and improved hypocapnic symptoms compared with usual care, according to Elizabeth Holloway, a research physiotherapist, and Robert West, Ph.D., both of University College London.

But, with the exception of relaxed breathing rate (P

The changes are not only statistically significant, the researchers argued, but are also clinically relevant.

A change of four points on one of the domains of the St. Georges questionnaire is seen as clinically significant, and the change in the symptom score - at either time point - was at least double that, the researchers said.

An important limitation noted by the authors was that the same individual delivered the intervention and undertook the assessments. Thus, there is the risk of patients responding to what they perceive as the expectations of

the researcher.

In addition, they pointed out that the majority of patients in this study had either mild asthma or symptoms well controlled with medication. It remains to be seen, they wrote, whether the Papworth method would benefit patients with more severe asthma.