Panic due to breathlessness may cause you to breathe more quickly and shallowly, making it difficult for your lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide and tiring your accessory breathing muscles. Air trapping or bronchospasm may make it difficult to take a deep breath. Too much mucus trapped in the airways can cause shortness of breath or impaired gas exchange.
Learning new ways to breathe can help control your shortness of breath, decrease your respiratory rate, improve the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as retain your body to use your diaphragm for breathing rather than the less-effective accessory breathing muscles.
Many patients that rent or purchase a portable oxygen concentrator from Pure 02 inform me of their own personal experiences of dealing with COPD day to day. I am inundated with questions relating to breathing techniques, here are two that many patients have found to be helpful.
Pursed-lip breathing helps maintain positive pressure in your lungs when you exhale. This positive pressure not only holds floppy airways open, thereby allowing you to exhale stale air that may be trapped, but it also increases the amount of air you can take into your lungs. This allows for better gas exchange, increasing your oxygen and decreasing your carbon dioxide levels. It also helps you focus on your breathing, allowing you to control your shortness of breath and to relax. It is especially helpful for shortness of breath that occurs as a result of exertion or panic.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of two and concentrate on relaxing. You may want to close your eyes and visualize a relaxing scene.
- Purse your lips as if you were going to whistle.
- Breathe out gentle and slowly through pursed lips for a count of four. Let the air escape through your pursed lips naturally. Do not force the air from your lungs.
- Keep doing pursed-lip breathing until you are no longer short of breath. Try to relax as you practice pursed-lip breathing.
Abdominal breathing is another way to help you control your breathing and strengthen your diaphragm. It also helps to expand your lungs so that they can take in more air. This process will not only decrease your respiratory rate but also improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Sit in a comfortable chair, using good posture.
- Relax your shoulders
- Put one hand on your stomach. As you inhale through your nose, make your stomach push against your hand.
- Suck in your stomach muscles and exhale through pursed lips. You should feel your stomach move inwards.
- Repeat for three to four breaths. Then rest for two minutes
- Repeat this exercise many times a day.
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