Earlier this week we talked about pursed-lip breathing for COPD. Today we’re going to talk about another breathing technique – diaphragm breathing. Here is a video on pursed-lip and diaphragm breathing:
Breathing Techniques | COPD Foundation
Diaphragm (Belly or Abdominal) Breathing
Diaphragm breathing is another breathing technique. Your diaphragm is a large, flat sheet of muscle just below your rib cage and above your abdomen. Your diaphragm is supposed to be in the shape of a dome and is meant to do most of the work of breathing. When a healthy diaphragm flattens, it pulls down on the bottoms of your lungs, and air comes in. When you breathe out, the diaphragm pushes up on the bottoms of your lungs and the air comes out.
As we learned in Part I on pursed-lip breathing, COPD can cause the lungs to trap air and overinflate, making your lungs bigger than they should be. This can lead to your diaphragm, which is supposed to be in the shape of a dome, becoming flat. Then your diaphragm doesn’t work like it should, putting you – and your lung movement – at a mechanical disadvantage.
When this happens, your body makes up for this and calls on the accessory muscles to help move the air. Accessory muscles are the muscles near your collarbone, in your neck, and between your ribs. These muscles were not meant to work so hard at moving air. Using these muscles to breathe not only takes a lot of energy, but it can make you sore and tense in your shoulders and back. So, you’re not using the strongest breathing muscle you have, your diaphragm, to do most of the work; and this, plus the accessory muscle use adds up to a whole lot of effort and fatigue without a lot of results!
Here's a summary of how diaphragm breathing helps.
What happens in the lungs? The diaphragm becomes flattened at rest. It works best when it is in a dome shape.
How does diaphragm breathing help?Diaphragm breathing can help strengthen that muscle to work more effectively even though it’s at a mechanical disadvantage.
What happens in the lungs? Rapid, shallow breathing.
How does diaphragm breathing help? Correct diaphragm breathing helps you breathe slower and deeper.
What happens in the lungs? Increased use of accessory breathing muscles.
How does diaphragm breathing help? Better use of your diaphragm makes it less necessary to use inefficient accessory muscles.
Have you tried the diaphragm breathing technique? Does it help?