NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The Papworth method, a breathing and relaxation technique first introduced in the 1960s, can improve respiratory symptoms and mood in adults with asthma, UK researchers report.

Despite its long history of use, no randomized trials have ever examined the efficacy of the Papworth method, study authors Dr. Elizabeth A. Holloway and Dr. Robert J. West, from University College London, note.

As reported in the June 28th online issue of Thorax, the researchers assessed the outcomes of 85 asthma patients who were randomized to receive usual care or five session of treatment with the Papworth method. Respiratory symptoms and mood were evaluated using standard tests at baseline and at 6 and 12 months.

The five main components of the Papworth method are breathing training focusing on reducing hyperinflation and hyperventilation patterns, education in managing the stress response, relaxation training, integration of breathing techniques into daily living, and home exercises to reinforce the techniques learned.

Patients in the Papworth group experienced significantly greater improvement in respiratory symptoms than did controls. In addition, use of the Papworth method was associated with reductions in anxiety and depression as well as dysfunctional breathing.

By contrast, objective measures of respiratory function did not show a significant difference between the groups with the exception of the relaxed breathing rate.

"To our knowledge, this is the first evidence from a controlled trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Papworth method," the authors conclude. It would be interesting to determine if this method might be a useful treatment for COPD as well, they add.