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Buteyko breathing exercises may ‘improve childhood asthma’

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Asthma symptoms in children can be alleviated using a programme of simple breathing exercises called the Buteyko method, according to UK researchers.

The Buteyko method or Buteyko breathing technique is a form of complementary or alternative physical therapy developed in the 1950s by a Ukrainian doctor, Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko.

“We would recommend that breathing exercises become an integral part of control and treatment of childhood asthma”

Claire Hepworth

At its core is a series of reduced-breathing exercises that focus on nasal-breathing, breath-holding and relaxation, which are intended to reduce hyperventilation.

An observational study by Alder Hey Children’s NHS Trust has suggested that asthma control and breathing dysfunction were improved by the method in a group of 48 children, aged six to 17.

The Buteyko exercises, which focused on quiet and controlled nose breathing and using the diaphragm during rest and exercise, were taught to the children over four to six outpatient sessions.

The researchers divided the children into those who had medication changes during the time of the study and those who did not.

Of 37 who did not have medication changes, 30 completed an asthma control test and 35 did a Nijmegen questionnaire to assess dysfunctional breathing.

The results showed that poor asthma control was present in 67% before using Buteyko breathing exercises, which reduced to 33% after the intervention.

Dysfunctional breathing, present in 51% of the children at the start of the study, reduced to 14%.

A smaller group of children who took part in the breathing exercise programme and also had changes in their medication showed an even greater improvement in their asthma control with a similar improvement in breathing dysfunction.

The research findings were presented as a poster (see attached PDF) at the European Respiratory Society International Congress, which is took place in London earlier this week.

As a result of the findings, the study authors said a randomised controlled trial was now warranted to assess an outpatients programme for children with asthma.

Claire Hepworth, a specialist respiratory physiotherapist at Alder Hey who led the study, said: “Using Butyeko breathing exercise with children is an effective and drug-free method to help improve asthma control and address dysfunctional breathing.

“We would recommend that breathing exercises become an integral part of control and treatment of childhood asthma,” she added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • There have been several randomised controlled trials over the last 20 years. No difference in lung functions have been found due to Butyeko breathing exercises. The differences found were in how the patients felt, not in any improvement in their actual asthma. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1746772/pdf/v058p00674.pdf and https://iamheart.org/dome/201/full_breath/buteyko_research.html and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0954611107005112 as the first three links I followed from a Google Scholar search.

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