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

Sixty-four patients with extrinsic bronchial asthma were treated over a 4-week period and assessed at baseline, after treatment and after 4 months, for follow-up. Sixteen patients completed Functional Relaxation (FR), 14 the guided imagery (GI), and 15 both FR and GI together (FR/GI), while 13 received a placebo relaxation technique as the control intervention (CI).

The forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV(1)) as well as the specific airway resistance (sR(aw)) were employed as primary outcome measures.

The study found that participation in FR, GI and FR/GI led to increases in 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 in the CI group at the end of the therapy.

After follow-up, the increases in FEV(1) were best in the FR group:  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. Improvements in sR(aw) (% predicted) were in keeping with the changes in FEV(1) in all groups.

The study confirms a positive effect of relaxation and imagery on respiratory parameters, but especially functional relaxation, and suggests a clinically relevant long-term benefit as a non-pharmacological and complementary therapy treatment option.

Citation:  Lahmann C, Nickel M, Schuster T, Sauer N, Ronel J, Noll-Hussong M, Tritt K, Nowak D, Rohricht F, Loew T.   Functional relaxation and guided imagery as complementary therapy in asthma: a randomized controlled clinical trialPsychotherapy & Psychosomatics. 2009;78 (4):pages 233-9. Epub 2009 Apr 28. [email protected]