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Relaxation therapies for asthma: a systematic review
  1. A Huntley,
  2. A R White,
  3. E Ernst
  1. Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Sport and Health Studies, University of Exeter, Exeter EX2 4NT, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr A Huntley, Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Sport and Health Studies, University of Exeter, Exeter EX2 4NT, UK;
    A.Huntley{at}ex.ac.uk

Abstract

Background: Emotional stress can either precipitate or exacerbate both acute and chronic asthma. There is a large body of literature available on the use of relaxation techniques for the treatment of asthma symptoms. The aim of this systematic review was to determine if there is any evidence for or against the clinical efficacy of such interventions.

Methods: Four independent literature searches were performed on Medline, Cochrane Library, CISCOM, and Embase. Only randomised clinical trials (RCTs) were included. There were no restrictions on the language of publication. The data from trials that statistically compared the treatment group with that of the control were extracted in a standardised predefined manner and assessed critically by two independent reviewers.

Results: Fifteen trials were identified, of which nine compared the treatment group with the control group appropriately. Five RCTs tested progressive muscle relaxation or mental and muscular relaxation, two of which showed significant effects of therapy. One RCT investigating hypnotherapy, one of autogenic training, and two of biofeedback techniques revealed no therapeutic effects. Overall, the methodological quality of the studies was poor.

Conclusions: There is a lack of evidence for the efficacy of relaxation therapies in the management of asthma. This deficiency is due to the poor methodology of the studies as well as the inherent problems of conducting such trials. There is some evidence that muscular relaxation improves lung function of patients with asthma but no evidence for any other relaxation technique.

  • asthma
  • relaxation therapy
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Footnotes

  • Alyson Huntley is sponsored by Boots the Chemists.

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