Therapy and Management | Treatment | Non-Pharmacological

Complementary treatment methods for asthma

Although a variety of alternative and complementary methods of healing have been applied in the treatment of bronchial asthma their effectiveness is largely unproven. Alternative methods include acupuncture, homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine or speleotherapy (use of subterranean environments).

Also no reliable conclusions can be drawn concerning the efficacy of physiotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic interventions in asthma. However a systematic Cochrane Database review on breathing exercises revealed that significantly better results concerning subjective measures like improvement in quality of life or reduction of rescue medication were achieved with intervention. Some of the included studies also used objective outcome parameters showing that acute exacerbations decreased with breathing exercise. Reviews on manual therapy in asthma did not provide sufficient evidence for these intervention methods.

Symptoms in asthma may be triggered by psychological factors. Additionally nonadherence to medical regimens may have a psychological dimension. Therefore psychotherapeutic interventions aim to reduce symptoms and improve disease management. Reviews undertaken to validate the efficacy of psychological therapies all criticized poor methodology and too small sample size. Overall findings of studies were conflicting. Still there was some evidence that relaxation therapies or hypnosis could have beneficial effects on asthma symptoms.


Fleming SL, Pagliari C, Churchill R, Shuldham CM, McKean M. Psychotherapeutic interventions for adults with asthma. 2004. Cochrane Database Syst Rev; 1: CD002982

Hackman RM, Stern JS, Gershwin ME. Hypnosis and asthma: a critical review. 2000. J Asthma; 37 (1): 1-15

Holloway E, Ram FS. Breathing exercises for asthma. 2004. Cochrane Database Syst Rev; 1: CD001277

Hondras MA, Linde K, Jones AP. Manual therapy for asthma. 2002. Cochrane Database Syst Rev; 4: CD001002

Huntley A, White AR, Ernst E. Relaxation therapies for asthma: a systematic review. 2002. Thorax;57 (2): 127-131

O'Byrne P. GINA Executive Committee. Global strategy for asthma management and prevention. 2004. National Institutes of Health. Publication No 02-3659

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