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Biofeedback treatment for asthma.

06 Sep

In a randomized, controlled clinical trial with 94 asthma sufferers at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, biofeedback was found to be an effective, complementary therapy for asthma symptoms..

In a randomized, controlled, clinical trial, researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, atThe University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Piscataway, evaluated the effectiveness of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback as a complementary treatment for asthma.

Ninety-four adult, outpatient, paid volunteers with asthma were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (1) a full protocol, consisting of HRV biofeedback and abdominal breathing through pursed lips and prolonged exhalation); (2) HRV biofeedback alone; (3) placebo EEG biofeedback; and (4) a wait list control. Subjects were first pre-stabilized, using controller medication, and then medication was titrated biweekly by blinded asthma specialists, according to a protocol based on National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines which responds to symptoms, spirometry, and home peak flows.

Subjects recorded daily asthma symptoms and twice-daily peak expiratory flows. Spirometry was performed before and after each weekly treatment session under the HRV and placebo biofeedback conditions, and at tri-weekly assessment sessions under the wait list condition. In addition, oscillation resistance was measured tri-weekly.

Compared with the two control groups, subjects in both of the two HRV biofeedback groups were prescribed less medication, with minimal differences between the two active treatments. Improvements averaged one full level of asthma severity. Measures from forced oscillation pneumography similarly showed improvement in pulmonary function. A placebo effect influenced an improvement in asthma symptoms, but not in pulmonary function. Groups did not differ in the occurrence of severe asthma flares.

These results suggest that HRV biofeedback may prove to be a useful adjunct to asthma treatment and may help to reduce dependence on steroid medications. Further evaluation of this method is warranted.

Citation: Lehrer PM, Vaschillo E, Vaschillo B, Lu SE, Scardella A, Siddique M, Habib RH. Biofeedback treatment for asthma. Chest. 2004 Aug; 126 (2): pages 352-61. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award