Breathing Techniques and Exercises for COPD Patients

There are two different breathing techniques you can use to help get more air. They will even help you to relax when you start to tense up, especially when you are starting to have trouble breathing. You should talk to your doctor before trying these breathing techniques, to see if they are right for you.

It can be a vicious cycle when you start to have a hard time breathing. It can cause you to feel anxious, which only makes it worse. Also, you'll avoid activities that make your feel breathless, which can be as simple as walking slowly around the house.

When you avoid physical activities, your muscles get weaker, which in turn causes your breathing to get worse. This leads to feeling even more anxious and even depressed, which will make your breathing even worse.

These breathing techniques, also known as breathing exercises, are recommended by respiratory therapists to many of their patients. They work to relax you, as well as give the muscles around the lungs, as well as the lungs themselves, a gentle but brisk work-out.

These two techniques are called pursed-lip breathing, and Diaphragmatic (Abdominal/Belly) Breathing. We'll walk you through the steps for properly doing both.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

This breathing technique has the benefits of slowing down your breathing, and opening your lungs longer to allow more oxygen in, and for more carbon dioxide to escape. It reduces the work of breathing in the long run and increases how long you can perform physical activities.

Step 1: Inhale deeply through your nose for about 2 seconds.

Step 2: Purse your lips like you’re going to drink something through a straw.

Step 3: Breathe out slowly two to four times as long as you inhaled.

Repeat steps 1 through 3 10 times per session.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique is used to strengthen the diaphragm, which is the muscle you should be using when you breathe. If you have COPD, your diaphragm is weaker, and your breathing is controlled with your back and neck muscles, which results in shallow breathing.

This is a little more difficult to do, and you should talk to your doctor first before trying it. You also shouldn't do it when you're feeling tense.

Step 1: Relax your shoulders.

Step 2: Rest one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

Step 3: Inhale through your nose for about two seconds.

Step 4: Breathe in and expand your stomach outward. Your stomach should expand more than your chest.

Step 5: Breathe out and gently press on your stomach. This will assist in getting air out will by putting pressure on your diaphragm.

Repeat steps 1 through 5 for 5 times.

You can do the pursed-lip breathing when you start to feel short of breath, and it should help you feel better. If not, contact your doctor. After you do these breathing techniques, they will become like second nature, and you'll start to see an improvement in how you feel.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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