Did you know that physiotherapy can help you overcome problems with breathing?

The history of physiotherapy and breathing re-education

Did you know that physiotherapy can help you overcome problems with breathing?

If you think breathing is as easy as ‘falling off a log’ think again. Even those of us blessed with the strongest and healthiest set of lungs can develop issues with how we breathe. And if you have a breathing problem such as asthma you’ll be very aware that breathing freely can be a daunting challenge at times. Physiotherapy has been assisting with breathing rehabilitation for over a century.

A New Zealand physiotherapist Bernice Thompson lead the way. In the 1950s and 60s she developed a method of treating childhood asthma long before the days of metered-dose inhalers. In 1963 she published a book - 'Asthma and Your Child' and in 1967 a second book - 'Better Breathing'. At this time chest physician Claude Lum and physiotherapists Diana Innocenti and Rosemary Cluff from the U.K. formulated the Papworth Method which integrates breathing and relaxation techniques This is still currently used predominately in the field of respiratory physiotherapy. 

A New Zealand physiotherapist Bernice Thompson lead the way.  In the 1950s and 60s  she developed a method of treating childhood asthma long before the days of metered-dose inhalers. In 1963 she published a book- 'Asthma and Your Child' and in 1967 a second book - 'Better Breathing'. At this time chest physician Claude Lum and physiotherapists Diana Innocenti and Rosemary Cluff from the U.K. formulated the Papworth Method which integrates breathing and relaxation techniques. This is still currently used predominately in the field of respiratory physiotherapy. 

In 1991 Dinah Bradley wrote the first patient handbook on the subject of hyperventilation syndrome/breathing pattern disorders.  Dinah and I (Tania Clifton-Smith) met soon after my return from the U.K where I had worked with Claude Lum and other eminent physicians in this field, and we set up the first independent breathing disorders clinics Breathing Works. A collaboration of handbooks for clients followed. With my back ground in physical education and musculoskeletal physiotherapy and Dinah’s in respiratory physiotherapy this expanded the scope of practice beyond the anxious and respiratory client to include athletes, sports injuries and musculoskeletal dysfunction.

Other key physiotherapists in this field are Mary Massery who has successfully incorporated breathing, respiratory control and re-education into predominantly neurological conditions.

Massery remains adamant “breathing is the first step of all rehabilitation".

BradCliff programmes are constantly evolving. Research continues to grow with supporting work from a few key physiotherapists: Paul Hodges, Peter O’Sullivan (musculoskeletal) Anne Brunton – respiratory, in particular asthma.

The BradCliff team have their own research star in the rising, Scott Peirce, who is currently doing his masters in the use of real time ultrasound for objective assessment in breathing dysfunction.

Our expertise as physiotherapists is in our unique assessment and treatment skills - diaphragmatic breathing remains the foundation of our treatment, but it is no longer the only aspect.

The diversity of our physiotherapy profession enables us to approach breathing pattern disorders from many different perspectives yet allows us a cohesive informed approach, as physiotherapy aims to treat the whole person not just the system.

Breathing is the foundation of health and well-being.

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