Before starting these techniques, ask your Health Care Provider if they are right for you.
Having COPD makes it harder to breathe. And when it’s hard to breathe, it’s normal to get anxious, making you feel even more short of breath.
There are two breathing techniques that can help you get the air you need without working so hard to breathe: Pursed-lips Breathing and Diaphragmatic (also called Belly or Abdominal) Breathing.
Better Breathing Tip: It’s normal to hold your shoulders tense and high. Before starting any breathing technique, take a minute to drop your shoulders down, close your eyes, and relax.
- Slows your breathing down
- Keeps airways open longer so your lungs can get rid of more stale, trapped air
- Reduces the work of breathing
- Increases the amount of time you can exercise or perform an activity
- Improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
To do purse-lips breathing:
- Breathe in through your nose (as if you are smelling something) for about 2 seconds.
- Pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake.
- Breathe out very slowly through pursed-lips, two to three times as long as you breathed in.
Diaphragmatic (Abdominal/Belly) Breathing
The diaphragm is the main muscle of breathing. It’s supposed to do most of the work. When you have COPD, the diaphragm doesn’t work as well and muscles in the neck, shoulders and back are used. These muscles don’t do much to move your air. Training your diaphragm to take over more “work of breathing” can help.
Diaphragmatic breathing is not as easy to do as pursed-lips breathing. It is recommended that you get instruction from a respiratory health care professional or physical therapist experienced in teaching it.
This technique is best used when you’re feeling rested and relaxed, and while sitting back or lying down.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
- Inhale through your nose for about two seconds.
- As you breathe in, your belly should move outward. Your belly should move more than your chest.
- As you breathe out slowly through pursed-lips, gently press on your belly. This will push up on your diaphragm to help get your air out.
Better Breathing Tip: Stop, Reset, Continue
When you are feeling short of breath during exercise or regular activities, use these 3 steps:
- Stop your activity.
- Reset by sitting down, relax your shoulders, and do pursed-lips breathing until you catch your breath.
- Continue activity, doing pursed-lips breathing as you go. Go at a slower pace if you need to.
While you’re here, look over these topics to learn tips on how to live better with your COPD.