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Breathing Guidance Device Improves PTSD Symptoms

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Apr 2019
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Image: An innovative breathing device helps control PTSD symptoms (Photo courtesy of Resperate).
Image: An innovative breathing device helps control PTSD symptoms (Photo courtesy of Resperate).
A new study suggests that device-guided breathing may improve physiological symptoms in people with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers at Emory University (Atlanta, GA, USA) conducted a study to explore the use of the Resperate (Tel Aviv, Israel) RESPeRATE breathing device as a means to regulate sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure control in military veterans with PTSD. Diagnosis and severity of PTSD in each volunteer were confirmed using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). The volunteers were then divided into two groups--moderate or severe--based on CAPS results. Within each group, the participants were randomly assigned to the RESPeRATE breathing device or to a sham device.

The RESPeRATE device measures inhalation and exhalation rates through a band of sensors worn around the abdomen connected to a control unit with an LCD display. During use, it produces musical tones that are played through headphones in order to guide the user to successfully achieve a slower-than-normal rate of breathing of just five to six breaths per minute. The sham device used in the study works in the same fashion, but guides the user to breathe 14 breaths per minute, within the normal range of regular breathing rates.

The results showed that both heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were reduced substantially in the severe PTSD group using the breathing device, when compared to the device-using moderate group. Volunteers with moderate PTSD who used RESPeRATE also showed an improvement in both factors, but the positive changes were not as significant as in those with more severe PTSD. The study was presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) annual meeting, held during April 2019 in Orlando (FL, USA).

“A non-pharmacological intervention such as device-guided breathing could be beneficial in the treatment of PTSD, especially in severe cases,” said lead author undergraduate student Monica Vemulapalli. “Further work is needed to determine if device-guided breathing could reduce the risk of future hypertension in this population; if device-guided breathing can lead to sustained reductions in MSNA, then it could potentially reduce risk of hypertension.”

PTSD is a mental health condition that may develop after a person has experienced a traumatic or life-threatening event, including military combat, natural disasters, and physical or sexual abuse. Flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, which are associated with PTSD, can lead to physical manifestations, such as episodes of rapid breathing, muscle tension, and short-term increases in heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the long-term risk of hypertension and heart disease.

Related Links:
Emory University
Resperate


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