Breathing Easy May Lower the Need for Asthma Meds

Tired of having to puff away at your inhaler? A new study shows that certain breathing exercises may significantly cut the need for reliever inhalers in patients with mild asthma.

Properly controlling asthma usually requires two types of medication: a controller and rescue inhaler. The controller medication is meant to reduce the number of asthma attacks that happen in the first place, while the rescue inhaler helps someone having an asthma attack control his or her breathing. Researchers have found, however, that when breathing exercises are done on a regular basis, the need for rescue inhalers may be reduced by up to 86 percent.

"Breathing techniques may be useful in the management of patients with mild asthma symptoms who use a reliever frequently," wrote Dr. Christine Jenkins and colleagues from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia.

In the study, which was published in Thorax, researchers recruited 57 adults with mild asthma who needed to use a rescue inhaler at least four times a week. Each was randomly assigned to one of two types of breathing exercises. The first breathing exercise emphasized slow, shallow breathing through one's nose, while the second technique included upper body exercises and relaxation.

Each participant was asked to practice their breathing exercises twice a day for 25 minutes. Additionally, if the patient's felt a rescue inhaler was needed, they were encouraged to try to use the breathing exercises to help control their asthma attack.

The use of the rescue inhaler quickly dropped once the participants began their breathing exercises. And by 30 weeks, the need for this inhaler dropped by 86 percent in both groups. Additionally, the need for controller medication was cut in half by both groups.

While both exercises helped patients better control their asthma, there was no significant difference between either forms of exercise, leading the researchers to suggest that either specific breathing exercises or nonspecific upper body exercises may help.

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