Breathing retraining techniques may help adult asthma

Research Activities, November 2012, No. 387

Certain behavioral approaches to treat asthma may improve asthma symptoms or reduce use of quick-relief medication in motivated adults with poorly controlled asthma, concludes a new report. The evidence-based review from AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program notes that asthma is a chronic condition of the airways characterized by the complex interaction of underlying inflammation, bronchial (airway) hyper-responsiveness, and airway obstruction. In 2009, the estimated prevalence of asthma in the United States was 8.2 percent, which represents 24.6 million adults and children.

An asthma inhaler

Poorly controlled asthma is associated with increased health care use, decreased quality of life, and significant activity limitations. In the United States, the projected annual cost (direct and indirect) of asthma in 2010 was estimated to be over $20 billion. Moderate evidence suggests that, for adults with poorly controlled asthma, hyperventilation-reduction breathing techniques can improve symptoms and may reduce reliever medication use over 6 to 12 months, with no known harmful effects compared to other breathing techniques. However, these techniques were not found to improve lung (pulmonary) function when compared to no intervention. Programs that included 5 or more hours of contact and that also offered interventions beyond breathing retraining or advice were more likely to be effective than no intervention. Patients considering these treatments should not alter asthma medication before discussing their options with their clinician.

The report's findings can be found in the research review Breathing Exercises and/or Retraining Techniques in the Treatment of Asthma: Comparative Effectiveness. To access this review and other materials that explore the effectiveness and risks of treatment options for various conditions, visit the Effective Health Care Program Web site at Effective Health Care Program .

Current as of November 2012
Internet Citation: Breathing retraining techniques may help adult asthma: Research Activities, November 2012, No. 387. November 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.