Biofeedback is the conscious control of body functions through the use of electronic monitoring devices. A new study finds practicing daily biofeedback can help people with asthma reduce their need for inhaled steroid medications.
Researchers tested the therapy in 94 adults with moderate persistent asthma. The participants were divided into four groups. Two of the groups used a biofeedback device that provided information about their heart rate variability( HRV). HRV was selected for the study because previous research has shown asthmatics have decreased HRV. Increasing HRV can improve respiratory symptoms.
In addition to the biofeedback, one group also learned to use a special pursed-lip breathing technique during their biofeedback sessions. A third group received a placebo, or sham, biofeedback therapy, and a fourth group received no treatment at all and served as controls. The three biofeedback groups participated in 10 weekly sessions and also practiced the technique at home for 20 minutes twice a day. All participants had regular checkups and kept a record of daily asthma symptoms.
People in both of the HRV biofeedback groups reduced the amount of inhaled steroid medication they needed to keep their asthma under control. Asthma severity also dropped from moderate persistent to mild persistent. Asthma symptoms improved in all three therapy groups, but the group that got the sham biofeedback therapy did not see a reduction in medication use or disease severity. No changes were noted in the control group.
Thus researchers say that they believe their findings suggest HRV biofeedback may prove to be a useful adjunct to asthma treatment and may help to reduce dependence on steroid medications.