Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This health condition affects a person’s ability to breathe properly. Symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases tend to worsen over time, but practicing regular breathing exercises can help you manage these symptoms. When done regularly, breathing exercises are known to help improve your lung power as well. You will find that you are not exerting yourself so much during your daily activities if you regularly practice the breathing exercises. They can also help improve your energy levels. Here are some ways to reliving COPD with deep breathing exercises.
5 Deep Breathing Exercises To Get Relief From COPD
In people who have COPD, it has been observed that the common symptom of feeling short of breath leads to increased anxiety, which makes it difficult for a person to breathe and also makes them hold their breath.(1) To prevent this from happening, practicing coordinated breathing can help.
Coordinated breathing is done in two steps:
- Inhale through your nose before beginning any exercise.
- Purse your lips and breathe out through your mouth when you are at the most strenuous part of the exercise.
- For example, breathing out through your mouth while pursing your lips when curling upward during a bicep curl.
- It is best to perform coordinated breathing when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or when you are doing your exercise routine.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Pursed lip breathing is known to have a wide range of health benefits. According to research carried out by the Cleveland Clinic, pursed lip breathing has the following benefits:(2)
- Reduces shortness of breath
- Enhances relaxation
- Helps release air that is trapped in the lungs
- It reduces the amount of effort a person has to put in to breathe
Practicing the pursed lip breathing technique at least four to five times a day can help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.(3)
Here is the method of practicing pursed lip breathing:
- Keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath through your nose. Count to 2.
- Follow this pattern and repeated ‘inhale, 1, 2’ in your head. The breath does not need to be very deep. Normal inhaling will suffice.
- To purse your lips, put your lips together like you are going to blow out candles on a cake or you are going to whistle. This is how you can purse your lips.
- While keeping your lips pursed, slowly exhale out by counting to 4.
- Do not try to force the breath out. Instead, breathe out slowly through your mouth.
It is best for COPD patients to practice pursed lip breathing when you are performing strenuous activities such as climbing the stairs.(4)
Huff Cough Exercise
In people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mucus starts accumulating easily in the lungs. The huff cough is a specialized breathing exercise that helps you cough up this built-up mucus without making you feel tired. Here’s how you can practice the huff cough:
- Sit in a comfortable position and inhale through your mouth. Take in a slightly deeper breath than you normally take.
- Activate your stomach muscles and blow the air out in three breaths while making the sounds ‘ha, ha, ha’.
- The best way to do this is to imagine you are blowing onto a mirror, causing it to steam up.
A huff cough is typically less tiring than a regular cough. This also prevents you from feeling tired and weak while coughing up mucus.(5)
Deep breathing is beneficial for patients of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as it prevents air from becoming trapped in the lungs. This causes a person to feel short of breath. By practicing deep breathing, you will be able to breathe in more fresh air.
Here is how you can practice deep breathing:
- Sit or stand in a manner that allows you to expand your chest completely.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and hold your breath.
- Count to 5.
- Release the air in a slow and deep exhale through the nose.
- Keep exhaling until you can feel all of the inhaled air has been released.
You can incorporate deep breathing with your other daily breathing exercises.(6) You can perform breathing exercises for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time, 4 to 5 times a day.
People with COPD have to rely on the accessory muscles of the shoulders, back, and neck to breathe instead of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is one of the most important muscles involved in the process of breathing. It is an essential part of the respiratory system.
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal breathing, is used to retrain the diaphragm to work more efficiently again.
This is how diaphragmatic breathing can be done:
- Sit or lie down with your shoulders relaxed.
- Put a hand on your chest and place your other hand on the stomach.
- Inhale through your nose for about 2 seconds, while feeling your stomach moving outward. If you do the process correctly, then your stomach should move more outward than your chest.
- Purse your lips and exhale slowly through the mouth while pressing lightly on the stomach. This boosts the diaphragm’s ability to release air. Repeat the exercise as many times as you are able to.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a more complicated technique than the other deep breathing exercises described here. Many experts recommend that only people who are experienced in other deep breathing techniques should be practicing this form of breathing.(7)
People with COPD may benefit significantly from practicing breathing exercises. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has reported that such patients have experienced dramatic improvements in their exercising capacity as compared to those who do not practice breathing exercises.(8)
Remember to set realistic guidelines so that you are able to move on gradually instead of putting too much stress on your lungs at once. You can gradually increase the number of minutes and days you practice these deep breathing exercises. However, remember to always consult your doctor before you start any COPD-related exercise program.
- Dolmage, T.E., Janaudis-Ferreira, T., Hill, K., Price, S., Brooks, D. and Goldstein, R.S., 2013. Arm elevation and coordinated breathing strategies in patients with COPD. Chest, 144(1), pp.128-135.
- Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Pursed Lip Breathing. [online] Available at: <http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/pursed-lip-breathing> [Accessed 21 March 2020].
- Breslin, E.H., 1992. The pattern of respiratory muscle recruitment during pursed-lip breathing. Chest, 101(1), pp.75-78.
- Cabral, L.F., D’Elia, T.C., Marins, D.S., Zin, W.A. and Guimarães, F.S., 2015. Pursed lip breathing improves exercise tolerance in COPD: a randomized crossover study. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med, 51(1), pp.79-88.
- Saini, B., 2010. Huff Puff, Wheeze and Cough-Exercise-induced Respiratory Symptoms. Australian Pharmacist, 29(8), p.662.
- Westerdahl, E., Lindmark, B., Eriksson, T., Hedenstierna, G. and Tenling, A., 2005. Deep-breathing exercises reduce atelectasis and improve pulmonary function after coronary artery bypass surgery. Chest, 128(5), pp.3482-3488.
- Gosselink, R.A., Wagenaar, R.C., Rijswijk, H., Sargeant, A.J. and Decramer, M.L., 1995. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces efficiency of breathing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 151(4), pp.1136-1142.
- Yancey, J. and Donald M. Chaffee, I., 2020. Role Of Breathing Exercises In The Treatment Of COPD. [online] Aafp.org. Available at: <http://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0101/p15.html> [Accessed 21 March 2020].
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