While many patients come to us with sleep issues, we also help patients with a multitude of breathing issues – the most common being asthma, but also cystic fibrosis and some neurological diseases.
For all of these, there are a number of evidence-based additive treatments that can be used alongside traditional therapies. The main one we use is a technique called Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).
IMT was first researched in the 1980’s, and by the 2000’s the evidence of the positive effects of breathing training were being seen across a number of areas, from asthmatics, to helping post-operative cardiac patients, to patients with cystic fibrosis, all the way up to improving athletic performance.
IMT works by creating a resistance when you breathe in. This strengthens your breathing muscles by making them work harder. It is like dumbbells for your diaphragm. It restores inspiratory muscle strength, which in turn reduces breathlessness and increases exercise tolerance. Well-trained inspiratory muscles need less blood(?) than weaker inspiratory muscles, meaning there is more for the other muscles you are using.
In the case of asthma, Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) is used to improve shortness of breath. Although this is certainly not a replacement for vital medications, it provides an added benefit through improving exercise tolerance, breathing pattern dysfunction and shortness of breath.
In the case of athletes, we use IMT to help improve their overall sports performance, e.g. a study on cyclists saw an improvement in time trial times of 4.7% – equivalent to slashing 3 minutes off of a 40k time trial. Numerous studies have shown similar results across a whole range of sports, from sprinting to rowing.
The “training tool” we use is called Airofit (link: https://www.airofit.com/), and just like physiotherapy, we set patients a training program (usually 4-8 weeks), where we progressively overload, using a breathing training program / protocol.