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Relaxation & Imagery Help Adults with Asthma Breathe Easier

03 May

Researchers from the Technische Universität München in Munich, Germany investigated the efficacy of a brief relaxation technique consisting of functional relaxation (FR) and guided imagery (GI) in adult asthmatics in a randomized controlled trial.

Sixty-four patients with extrinsic bronchial asthma (externally caused, usually from inhaled allergens) were treated over a 4-week period and assessed at baseline, after treatment, and after 4 months, for follow-up.

Sixteen patients completed the functional relaxation, fourteen the guided imagery, and fifteen a combination of both.  Thirteen received a placebo relaxation technique as the control intervention (CI). Primary outcome measures were forced expiratory volume in the first second [FEV(1)] as well as specific airway resistance [sR(aw)].

Participation in functional relaxation, guided imagery and both combined all led to significant increases in forced expiratory volume as compared to the controls at the end of the therapy*. 

After follow-up, the increases were best maintained in the Functional Relaxation group, but all groups were significantly stronger than controls.**   Improvements in airway resistance were in keeping with the changes in forced expiratory volume in all groups.

The study confirms a positive effect of relaxation and imagery on respiratory parameters and suggests a clinically relevant long-term benefit as a non-pharmacological adjunctive therapy option. 

*FEV(1) (% predicted) of 7.6 +/- 13.2, 3.3 +/- 9.8, and 8.3 +/- 21.0, respectively, as compared to -1.8 +/- 11.1

** FEV(1) were 6.9 +/- 10.3 in the FR group, 4.4 +/- 7.3 in the GI and 4.5 +/- 8.1 in the FR/GI, compared to -2.8 +/- 9.2 in the CI.

Citation:  Lahmann C, Nickel M, Schuster T, Sauer N, Ronel J, Noll-Hussong M, Tritt K, Nowak D, Röhricht F, Loew T.  Functional Relaxation and Guided Imagery as Complementary Therapy in Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Clinical TrialPsychotherapy & Psychosomatics. 2009 Apr 28;78(4):233-239. [Epub ahead of print]

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