WHAT IS PHYSIOTHERAPY?

Physiotherapy is an evidence-based discipline that involves using specialised exercises, stretches and other techniques to help to restore healthy movement and function to the body. Physiotherapy is a holistic therapy, and various types of physiotherapy can address a range of health concerns such as sports injuries and stroke to chronic health concerns such as asthma or diabetes.

Our Purpose

Our purpose is to be a global facilitator of health and wellness through access, education and advancement of Traditional & Complementary Medicine (T&CM). The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that lifestyle-related diseases (or non-communicable diseases) are responsible for more than 70% of deaths worldwide each year.

Knowledge represents empowerment. By sharing this evidence-based, peer-reviewed research, we aim to support everyday people to take ownership of their wellness, by making informed decisions and choices in conjunction with their health professional.

How This Study Could Help You Manage Your Asthma

According to statistics published by the WHO, approximately 339 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, which is believed to be the most common chronic disease among children. This study explored the effectiveness of self- learned and practitioner-taught physiotherapy for improving quality of life in people with asthma, and is titled:

PHYSIOTHERAPY BREATHING RETRAINING FOR ASTHMA: A RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TRIAL.

You can read the full study here:

Why Is This Study Important?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes the airways leading into the lungs to become swollen and constricted, which makes breathing difficult. No cure for asthma is currently available, but the symptoms can be managed in a variety of ways. A common approach to controlling asthma is by using pharmaceutical medication, which is generally reliable for short-term relief.

However, asthma’s long-term impact on quality of life poses a range of treatment challenges. Some people experience negative side effects which make them reluctant to use their medication, while others are concerned about long-term regular pharmaceutical use. For these reasons, many people suffering from asthma are interested in learning about “non-pharmacological self- management strategies” that may help them control their symptoms.

It is desirable to find cost-effective and convenient strategies that empower people to take an active role in their own asthma management. Finding evidence that a self-guided digital program could provide meaningful benefits for quality of life could make this a valuable and easily accessible option for people with asthma.

What Does This Mean For My Wellness?

The results of this study suggest that breathing-based physiotherapy can significantly improve quality of life for people who have trouble managing their asthma using pharmaceutical medication. If it is problematic for a person with asthma to visit a physiotherapist in person, the findings of this study indicate that instructional videos and supporting materials may be equally beneficial.

This empowers people to play a greater role in managing their asthma symptoms themselves. For people suffering from asthma who live in low-income populations, the ability to access inexpensive or free resources is an additional advantage.

The researchers did not observe an improvement in lung function or inflammation levels after the physiotherapy treatment. This led them to conclude that breathing retraining may provide “a technique for coping better with the consequences and ongoing effects of having asthma”, without reducing the severity of the disease itself. The authors emphasised that physiotherapy was intended to be an addition to, rather than a replacement for, conventional medication, and they did not suggest it was a way of ‘curing’ asthma.

As the popularity of DVDs has decreased since this study was designed, the researchers have made the resources freely available online in digital form. In addition to possibly helping people with asthma to manage their condition, this may provide an entry point to seek expert guidance from qualified physiotherapists. These practitioners may then be able to offer personalised care to further support the benefits of breathing retraining.

How Does This Relate to Physiotherapy?

Previous research has suggested that breathing retraining physiotherapy, which includes diaphragmatic breathing and other exercises for relaxation and breath control, is associated with a “reduced need for medication … and improved quality of life”. However, many people with asthma find it difficult to access this care due to obstacles such as the limited number of suitably trained practitioners.

The authors of this study hypothesised that a physiotherapy program which people can learn at home themselves using instructional materials could provide equivalent benefits to practitioner- guided breathing retraining. The self-guided program comprised a DVD and printed booklet with detailed explanations and illustrations of breathing exercises. The DVD showed video footage of the exercises being taught by a physiotherapist, while the booklet included a daily planner and other supplementary materials to help people make the exercises a part of their daily life.

In 2018, researchers affiliated with the University of Southampton in the UK, as well as other institutions, published the results of the “largest [randomised controlled] trial of breathing retraining in asthma to date”. The study involved 655 participants, randomly allocated to three groups. The first group learned breathing retraining physiotherapy with the aid of an instructional DVD, the second group were taught retraining during three face-to-face sessions with a physiotherapist, while the third group received standard medical care that did not include physiotherapy. Data was collected at the 3, 6 and 12-month marks, with 85% of the participants returning their 12-month questionnaire.

Key Findings About the Benefits of Breathing Retraining Physiotherapy for Asthma

  • While physiotherapy did not result in significant benefits for lung function or reduced inflammation, the participants reported that both self-guided and practitioner-assisted treatments improved their quality of life. The participants also reported benefits such as increased control over breathing, reduced need for medication, and feeling more relaxed.
  • Participants in the control group also experienced an elevation in quality of life over the 12 months of the study period, however the improvements were smaller than those reported by the treatment groups.
  • The researchers noted that the self-guided participants experienced fewer asthma attacks than the control group, and participants in both treatment groups required fewer prescriptions for pharmaceutical medication than the control group. However, these differences were not statistically significant.
  • Almost all (98%) of the participants in the treatment groups reported that they had utilised the practices shown on the instructional DVD or taught by a physiotherapist.
  • The degree of improvement in quality of life experienced by both treatment groups was comparable to the improved symptom control reported by people who are were prescribed new or stronger medication
    in addition to what they were already taking.
Disclaimer: The above does not constitute medical advice, and as with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing breathing retraining physiotherapy to support asthma treatment.
 
References
The Lancet Respiratory Medicine delivers comprehensive, clinically-focused coverage on all areas of respiratory medicine and critical care. [The journal] is stringently edited and peer-reviewed to ensure the scientific merit and clinical relevance of its diverse content.
 
Quoted from journal description
Physiotherapy | souladvisor.com
Asthma | World Health Organization
Physiotherapy breathing retraining for asthma: a randomised controlled trial | The Lancet Respiratory Medicine
Breathing Freely guide |lifeguidehealth.org
About | The Lancet Respiratory Medicine