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Referral for breathing exercises helps asthma patients

Referring patients with asthma for breathing exercises with a physiotherapist can greatly increase their quality of life, say UK researchers.

A study by primary care researchers found patients with asthma who did the breathing exercises, had significant improvements in quality of life scores six months later.

Patients who received breathing training showed a significant 1.1-point improvement in their HAD-anxiety score, 0.8-point improvement in their HAD-depression score and 3.2-point improvement in a hyperventilation improvement score.

But the research, published online in Thorax, did not show a significant reduction in medication use with the exercises.

Study leader Dr Mike Thomas, research fellow in general practice and primary care at the University of Aberdeen and GP in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, advised GPs to consider referral to a physiotherapist if patients were not controlled in spite of medication before increasing their dose.

He added: ‘The exercises make patients feel better and more in control with fewer symptoms and they are less anxious. GPs will find that very important. In future we want to see if we can teach these exercises with the help of a video.'

Dr Dermot Ryan, a GP in Loughborough and member of the General Practice Airways Research Group said the results were clinically important.

‘My take is that breathing exercises don't effect asthma but the person's belief they can control and manage their disease – it gives them a sense of empowerment.'

Researchers randomised 183 patients to three sessions of physiotherapist training on breathing exercises - including breathing from the diaphragm and nose, and more steady breathing - or three sessions of nurse-led asthma education.

Referring asthma patients for breathing exercises with a physio is beneficial

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