Asthma is a fascinating subject. Millions of people worldwide suffer from its symptoms – with mild to life-threatening episodes. A recent World Health Organization report states that 150 million people have this disorder; it affects people of all races `humble or poor, rich or renowned’. It has even been observed in animals. Yet ask five different medical specialists what the causes are and you get five different answers.

Similarly, asking five alternative health practitioners the same question will reveal the same diversity of opinion. There have been hundreds upon thousands of books written on this mysterious, breathing-related disease, from orthodox sources through to alternative `cures’. Research articles and latest findings are all freely available from numerous websites. Often patients know more about what’s new than their overworked doctors.

The BradCliff method® which we use at At Physical Sense is designed to see many people, referred for help with their asthma education and management. We are registered practising physiotherapists who are also registered to use the BradCliff method® whose funders have presented papers on breathing pattern disorders nationally and internationally. Why would the BradCliff method® have anything extra to add?

There are two reasons: the first is that people with asthma often develop truly dreadful breathing patterns. They use their chest muscles the wrong way, they breathe through their mouths, and they breathe too fast. We see this all the time in our clinic. There are many reasons why this happens. Our concern is that these `bad breathing’ patterns can make asthma worse, even triggering attacks – or to use the more politically correct term – episodes. Curiously, since the advent of user-friendly inhalers 30-odd years ago and newer asthma `wonder drugs’, less attention has been paid by the medical profession to the business of breathing itself.

Asthma awareness and education programmes highlight information about what goes on inside the chest – what happens to the airways, how to use the various devices for delivering asthma medications, how to reduce environmental triggers. But we want to add to this information. We want to show those with asthma the value of physical coping skills – i.e. learning what’s happening on the outside of the chest wall and including this as a vital part of asthma self-management.

Knowing how to breathe properly and efficiently by employing phy­sical coping skills enhances drug therapies, and in many instances helps people reduce medications, and their stress levels, and to exercise more enjoyably.

The second reason is that we believe you can breathe too much. Using the wrong combination of chest muscles leads to chronic over-breathing or hyperventilation. This in itself is stressful to both body and soul, and is a disorder people can do without, whether they have asthma or not. Over­breathing causes unpleasant and alarming symptoms which tend to be lumped together with the symptoms of airway hyper-reactivity (asthma). Two disorders for the price of one!

Newly diagnosed asthmatics are likely to be bamboozled by conflicting information and views on the right and wrong ways to manage their symptoms. Parents of young children with asthma report that problems in dealing with their own anxieties (and over-breathing) are compounded when they are faced with differences of opinion. This of course leads to more stress.

We at Physical sense challenge everyone who has asthma to take responsibility for their own breathing, and aim for the best, mechanically efficient, physiologically correct breathing. Make balanced breathing your starting point, and give any of the choices you subsequently take in managing your own asthma the very best start, from a strong foundation based on: tiptop, dynamic, calm, beautiful breathing.

You can find much more on this subject in “Dynamic breathing managing your Asthma” by Dinah Bradley & Tania Clifton Smith