One of the most common symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is shortness of breath (SOB), or dyspnea. Our goal is to teach you a series of breathing techniques that will help you to gain greater control over your breathing by slowing down the rate at which you breathe and increasing the depth of each breath. These techniques can be done on their own or incorporated into your daily activities in order to decrease your SOB, increase your exercise tolerance and improve your overall quality of life. The specific breathing techniques that will be discussed are:

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing Pattern (DBP)
  2. Pursed-Lip Breathing (PLB)
  3. Paced Breathing
  4. Recovery from Shortness of Breath
  5. Controlled Coughing

1. Diaphragmatic (Abdominal or Belly) Breathing

A. Diaphragmatic Breathing helps to prevent and alleviate SOB by:

  1. Increasing the effectiveness of the diaphragm
  2. Maximizing coordination and efficiency of breathing muscles.
  3. Decreasing the work of the accessory muscles and reducing the energy requirements of breathing

B. Technique:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position or recline slightly
  2. Relax the muscles of your neck, shoulder and chest
  3. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest
  4. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips as you tighten and pull in your abdominal muscles
  5. Breathe in slowly through your nose allowing your abdomen to rise, as the hand on your upper chest remains quiet (still).

2. Pursed-Lip Breathing

A. Pursed-Lip Breathing helps to prevent and alleviate SOB by:

  1. Slowing down your breathing
  2. Keeping your airways open for a longer period of time
  3. Helping to remove trapped air from your lungs

B. Technique:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulder muscles
  2. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 2
  3. Blow out gently through pursed lips for a count of 4
  4. Repeat

3. Paced Breathing

A. Paced breathing incorporates controlled breathing techniques with your activities of daily living (ADL). Coordinating your breathing with activity will allow you to:

  1. Tolerate greater activity with less SOB (dyspnea) and more energy
  2. Work at a pace that is most compatible with your ability
  3. Maintain greater control of your breathing pattern at all times

B. Technique:

  1. Perform a slow pursed-lip exhalation
  2. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose incorporating a diaphragmatic breathing pattern
  3. Perform the activity while exhaling gently through pursed lips
  4. Remember to exhale for twice as long as you inhale

4. Recovery from SOB

A. The following techniques should be used during periods of SOB:

1. In Sitting:

  1. Lean forward resting your elbows on your knees
  2. Lower your chin to your chest
  3. Begin Controlled Breathing Techniques

2. While Standing or walking:

  1. Lean forward with your back supported against a stable surface, i.e. a wall
  2. Bend forward resting your hands on your thighs
  3. Lower your chin to your chest
  4. Begin Controlled Breathing Techniques

4. Controlled Coughing

  1. Giving you greater control over your coughing so that you can clear secretions (expel excess mucus) more easily and with greater consistency. (expel excess mucus) more easily and with greater consistency.
  2. Decreasing fatigue caused by constant, uncontrolled coughing.

B. Technique:

  1. Sit in a chair with both feet on the floor and your arms folded across your abdomen.
  2. Take two deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, lean forward slightly and cough three times.
  4. As you cough, push on your abdomen with your arms.
  5. Relax for a few seconds or minutes and repeat as needed.