Asthma is a serious and potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by inflammation and swelling of the airways. Treatment of asthma typically involves the use of prescription bronchodilators and corticosteroids, as well lifestyle changes to reduce possible triggers. For some asthma sufferers, the use of asthma medications may be reduced by engaging in breathing exercises designed to improve lung function and quality of life.
Many asthmatics must use their medications several times each day in order to prevent and treat asthma attacks. However, the addition of breathing exercises to the daily routines of these patients may reduce their need for medications, improving quality of life, leading to better management of symptoms, and reducing the overall risk of a serious attack. According to researchers at Sydney’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, asthmatics who performed regular breathing exercises reduced their use of preventative medication by nearly 50%, and reduced the use of rescue inhalers by as much as 86%.
The two most commonly performed types of breathing exercises for asthma include a technique called Buteyko, which involves breathing through the nose and exhaling as strongly and for as long as possible, and pranayama, a technique that utilizes correct posture and controlled inhalation and exhalation. Breathing exercises may also improve lung function by correcting the poor breathing habits asthmatics develop after years of respiratory difficulties. An estimated 30% of asthmatics have learned dysfunctional breathing habits, and breathing exercises reverse these bad habits, encourage use of the full range of lung capacity, and strengthen the diaphragm and lung muscles.
Asthma medications may cause serious side effects in some people, but breathing treatments may reduce or even replace the need for preventative and rescue inhalers. Anyone considering the addition of breathing exercises to their asthma treatment plan should first speak with their doctor. Asthma medications should never be discontinued without the knowledge and permission of the treating physician.