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  • Christina Hunt

Breathing Techniques. Rebooted.


Education on energy conservation, pacing, medication administration, and breathing techniques are a cornerstone to pulmonary rehabilitation along with the exercise that is performed. That is why many of my blog posts focus on one or more of these topics in regard to managing your lung condition at home. You can’t review these topics enough. We need these reminders frequently because as we all know it is “all in the details” when it comes to living with a chronic disease. It’s been almost a year since I last covered breathing techniques so let’s get into it and for those of you who are “well-versed” on these… maybe I can offer you a few extra tips on when to use each of them.


I get calls from patients that want to set up pulmonary rehab and one of their questions is, “Will you teach me breathing exercises?” Breathing techniques aren’t exercises per say. They don’t make your lungs stronger. They don’t heal the lungs. They simply allow you to optimize the lung function that you do have; providing you with the best breath that you can take for recovery, activity, and receiving breathing treatments through nebulizer therapy. Many people with lung conditions are often frightened to become short of breath. One way to combat that fear is by teaching breathing techniques that may actually shorten recovery time. Think of it sort of like Lamaze for labor. Women who use Lamaze have a focus other than the pain of delivery. Lamaze eases anxiety and relaxes the body. Breathing techniques do many of the same things. Yes, I know pregnancy and chronic lung conditions are completely different (I’ve lived through it 3 times) however, it makes sense that you can capitalize on some of the very same benefits to using breathing techniques to build confidence, perform activities with less breathlessness, and recover quickly.


Pursed Lip Breathing


Why should you use it?

Blowing out through pursed lips increases a slight back pressure in the lungs (which we therapists call PEEP). This is the pressure that helps the tiny air sacs in our lungs remain open after exhalation (breathing out). This end exhalation pressure helps the lungs to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen which in turn helps a person breathe more effectively. (Okay, all done with the medical terms… but hopefully you get my drift.)


How do you do it?

You want to inhale (breathe in) through your nose like you are smelling roses. Then, exhale (breathe out) by puckering your lips and blowing out gently as if you are trying to extinguish a candle.


When should you use it?

Practice this technique when climbing stairs and purse lip breathe while taking each step. Breathe in as you raise your leg up. Blow out as you raise your body up a step. Repeating over and over as you’re slowly climb the stairs. Use it with activity like when you are carrying in the groceries or walking to the mailbox. I definitely think that you should use it when you are bending over to tie your shoes. Take a deep breath in through your nose before you bend over. Blow out through pursed lips as you tie your shoe. When you run out of breath, sit up and breathe in again through your nose and then blow out as you bend over again to tie the other shoe. If you find this breathing technique is too difficult to do while exercising, try to use it every few breaths and increase your frequency as you get more comfortable with it!


Diaphragmatic Breathing


What is it?

Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing) is a breathing technique in which you use your abdominal muscles to help pull your diaphragm down to bring air into the lungs and push your diaphragm up helping to push the air in your lungs out. This breathing technique must be practiced in order for it to work for you and be effective in helping you recover from your breathlessness.


How do I do it?

To practice diaphragmatic breathing, take a deep breath in and push your abdominals out. When exhaling pull your abdominal muscles in and blow out gently. Exhaling generally should take 2-3 times as long as inhaling. If you are having trouble coordinating your abdominal muscles and your breathing, you can place your hand gently on your stomach to feel the rise and fall of your stomach. You can also practice this technique lying down and placing a light book on your stomach so you can see the rise and fall of the book.


When should you use it?

Use it when you are exercising to help you take in deeper breaths and tolerate the exercise a little better. Actually, you can use this type of breathing technique practically with any daily activity. If done right, diaphragmatic breathing can help to lower your heartrate and blood pressure. Another benefit is that this breathing technique is commonly used to lower anxiety and stress levels when used in combination with meditation.


Deep Breathing


We know what it is but why focus on it?

Deep breathing is a fairly simple way to help prevent air trapping and also to help prevent alveolar collapse. (There I go with those medical terms again.) Essentially taking large breaths in has been widely accepted to help with relaxation, oxygenation, and ventilation.

When should I deep breathe?

To deep breathe, stand or sit up with your shoulders back. Take a large deep breath in through your nose and hold your breath for 2-5 seconds and then slowly exhale. You can perform this breathing technique in conjunction with other breathing techniques that you are doing, or you can do it on its own periodically throughout the day to help breathe more comfortably. I also recommend you use deep breathing when you are utilizing your nebulizer machine for a breathing treatment. You may want to use this breathing technique after putting on your cpap machine at night and after you climb into bed and are preparing to go to sleep.


Have you tried any of these breathing techniques? How has it helped you? Do you feel as if one of these breathing techniques is more helpful to your lung condition than others? Comment below. I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts!


Thank you for reading!


If you enjoyed this blog, I invite you to check out some of the topics I have covered in the past


Enjoy the Season. 14 Holiday Tips for People with Lung Conditions

Don't Get Carried Away By Breathlessness. 9 Tips to Decrease Breathlessness While Carrying Anything

Cleaning Tips for People with Lung Conditions


Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!


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:) Christina


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