Buteyko is a breathing retraining method developed by a Russian doctor called
Konstantin Buteyko in the 1940 and 50s. The aim of Buteyko is to breathe with the
appropriate rate, depth and pattern, which for those who require breathing
retraining often means breathing less. Its aim is therefore similar to the Papworth
Method, with which respiratory physiotherapists will be familiar and which is
widely used throughout the NHS and private practice.
Buteyko differs from the Papworth Method by incorporating a variety of breath
holds within its reduced volume and rate breathing retraining, thereby further
challenging the client to control their breathing under more testing circumstances.
Buteyko specific techniques to open and clear the nose as well as reduce dry
coughing and manage breathlessness are included and the habit of nose
breathing is instilled.
Buteyko is not a cure for asthma but a complementary technique which should be
used alongside conventional drug management. It is safe; none of the randomised
controlled trials carried out so far have shown any increased risk of asthma exacerbation requiring oral steroids or hospital admission when using the method. Buteyko is becoming increasingly available on the NHS, taught by suitably trained physiotherapists and nurses.
The use of both Buteyko and the Papworth Method are supported by the BTS/SIGN Asthma Management Guideline, 2019, p.60 which state “Behavioural programmes centred on breathing exercises and dysfunctional breathing reduction techniques (including physiotherapist-delivered breathing programmes such as the Papworth Method, and the Buteyko Method) can improve asthma symptoms, quality of life and reduce bronchodilator requirement in adults with asthma, although have little effect on lung function."
The BTS/SIGN Asthma Management Guideline, 2019, goes on to state "Breathing exercise programmes (including face-to-face physiotherapist taught methods and audiovisual programmes) can be offered to adults with asthma as an adjuvant to pharmacological treatment to improve quality of life and reduce symptoms".- Grade A supporting evidence.
For further information on randomised controlled trials on Buteyko which lead to its inclusion in the BTS/SIGN Asthma Management Guidelines please see the research section.