COPD: How to ease shortness of breath

If an individual has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), it can cause shortness of breath that can be scary. Worrying about this can make breathing even worse. The feeling of suffocation can lead to anxiety and panic. This reaction starts an alarm in the brain that triggers the muscles to tense up which makes it even harder to breathe.

In most cases, the fear of not being able to breathe properly prevents those with COPD to engage in activities previously enjoyed. Sometimes, the breathing issues occur even while at rest.

Breathing techniques for COPD

There are 2 breathing techniques ideal for individuals with COPD which bring oxygen into the lungs without exertion.

Pursed-lip breathing

COPD

In most cases, the fear of not being able to breathe properly prevents those with COPD to engage in activities previously enjoyed.

This is the initial technique to try if the individual starts to feel anxious about his/her breathing. The individual should drop his/her shoulders to relieve the tension and allow the breathing muscles to relax.

  • Inhale via the nose for 2 seconds
  • Pucker the lips as if blowing a kiss (pursed lips)
  • Exhale slowly via the pursed lips for about 6 seconds

The process should be repeated as needed especially if difficulty breathing persists.

Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing

The diaphragm is a large muscle beneath the lungs that facilitates breathing. If an individual has COPD, the muscle could not function normally. With this breathing technique, it helps strengthen the muscle.

A physical therapist can instruct the individual on how to breathe from the diaphragm which is also called as belly breathing.

Medications

In some cases, medications are required to control the anxiety symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications might be prescribed by the doctor.

Counseling

Counseling or psychotherapy can be beneficial. The individual can talk about his/her feelings and any concerns. The counseling might be done alone or with family members or in a group setting.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on COPD is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage respiratory ailments including COPD, register for a first aid and CPR course with Winnipeg First Aid.

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