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How Can I Stop Breathing Problems? Shortness of Breath Techniques

Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2022

Certain practices, such as modifying your breathing habits and performing breathing exercises, can help you relieve your breathing problems.

Besides medical management, certain practices may help relieve your breathing problems. Although these techniques are generally safe, you must get approval from your doctor, particularly if you have any underlying diseases or severe breathing problems.

  • Modifying your breathing habits (the way you breathe)
  • Controlling your breathing
  • Performing breathing exercises
    • Techniques to control breathing
    • Positions to recover from ongoing breathing problems

Breathing habits

Certain breathing practices may make you feel even more out of breath.

  • You may feel as if you need more air when you’re out of breath.
  • As a result, you may begin to take more air into your lungs or breathe faster.
  • You may then fail to empty your lungs as you exhale.
  • This implies that you breathe through the top of your chest rather than your entire lungs.
  • Breathing in this manner requires more effort; your muscles will tire faster, and you will feel even more out of breath.

Breathing control

Breathing control entails breathing gently and with as little effort as possible. It is beneficial to exercise breathing control when you are sitting calmly and not out of breath.

  • Breathing control is all about making the best use of your diaphragm (primary breathing muscle).
  • You must emphasize relaxing and using your shoulder and neck muscles to get into the ideal position for easy breathing.
  • When you breathe, your diaphragm contracts and draws air into the lungs, extending and enlarging them.
  • When you exhale, it relaxes back into a dome position, reducing the volume of air in your lungs.

Breathing exercises

  • You must sit in a comfortable position, rest your arms on an armrest or your lap, and allow your shoulders and body to be relaxed.
  • Place one hand on your stomach and the other one on your chest.
  • Close your eyes to relax and concentrate on your breathing.
  • Slowly inhale through your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
  • Your stomach will expand in response to your touch.
  • The hand on your chest will barely move if your breathing is under control.
  • Exhale through your nose.
  • Your stomach will drop gradually.
  • As you expel air, imagine all the stress in your body disappearing.
  • Make your breaths as slow, relaxing, and smooth as possible, while exerting as little effort as possible.
  • Try to feel calmer with each exhalation.
  • Slowly increase your breathing rate.

When you have complete control over your breathing, breathing out should be longer than breathing in air. There should be a natural pause as you conclude your breath.

3 techniques to control breathing

Three techniques to control breathing include:

  • Pursed lip breathing: You can use pursed-lip breathing to control your breathing at any time. This helps get all the air out of your lungs, which is especially important for people with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because restricted airways can trap air in the lungs.
    • Inhale slowly through your nose; then, purse your lips as if you are about to blow out a candle.
    • Blow out with your lips while still keeping them in pursed position.
    • When you exhale, imagine blowing out a candle.
    • Blow out for as long as you are comfortable. Don’t force your lungs to empty.
  • Blow as you go: This technique helps you simplify tasks and activities. Use it when you are doing something that causes you to lose your breath. It can be used along with pursed-lip breathing.
    • Take a deep breath before you make the effort.
    • Exhale while you are exerting yourself.
    • For example, while standing, breathe in right before you step or rise and then exhale as you stand up.
    • Experiment with pursing your lips as you blow out.
  • Paced breathing: Paced breathing is beneficial while you are active, such as walking or climbing stairs. Your steps are timed to match your breathing. It can be used along with pursed-lip breathing.
    • Count out loud while you walk or move.
    • For example, breathe in as you take one step and breathe out after one or two steps.
    • You may take additional steps as you breathe in or out.
    • You can experiment with your breathing with several steps and determine which suits you best for you.
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    6 positions to recover from a breathing problem

    Six positions to recover from ongoing breathing problems include:

  • Stand leaning your back against the wall:
    • Place your feet slightly apart, roughly one foot or 30 cm from the wall.
    • Put your hands at your sides and relax them.
    • This position can be useful for most people with lung conditions.
    • You can perform this at home or when you are out.
  • Stand leaning forward:
    • Lean forward from the hips, with your forearms resting on something at an appropriate height such as a chair or kitchen work area.
    • You could use a walking stick, wheeled frame, or grocery trolley when shopping.
  • Sit leaning forward:
    • Sit leaning forward at a table when you are out of breath.
    • Place some pillows on the table and rest your head and arms on the pillows.
  • Lie sideways on the floor and bend the knee close to the floor:
    • Lie on your side with pillows beneath your chin.
    • Make sure your neck is supported by the upper pillow.
    • Slightly bend the knee of the leg you are lying on while keeping your upper leg straight.
    • This assists you to spread your legs apart.
    • This position can help if you are having trouble breathing while resting and when your symptoms flare-up.
  • Sit straight up in a chair:
    • Sit up straight in a firm chair and place your hands on a chair armrest or your thighs.
    • Loosen your wrists and hands so that they become relaxed.
  • High side-lying:
    • Lie on your side with pillows beneath your head and shoulders.
    • Use more than two pillows such that your neck raises high.
    • Check that your top pillow is supporting your neck.
    • Bend your knees, hips, and top leg slightly.
  • Medical treatment of breathing problems

    Your doctor will recommend medical treatment based on your symptoms and the cause of your breathing problem.

    • In severe conditions, your doctor may place oxygen support through a tube that sits under your nostrils, or they may place an oxygen mask on your nose and mouth.
    • The primary step to reduce breathing problems is to eliminate or rectify the underlying cause of the breathing issue.
    • Medications are to be given to treat those causes.
    • If the lung fails to function properly, as seen in conditions such as COVID-19 pneumonia, you may require ventilator support.

    What is a breathing problem?

    Breathing problems, breathing difficulty, or shortness of breath (dyspnea) are terms used to describe when you have uncomfortable breathing and feel like you are not getting enough air.

    There is no universally accepted definition of breathing difficulty. Even in the absence of a medical problem, some people feel out of breath after only a few minutes of light exertion (such as ascending stairs).

    Wheezing is a symptom that occurs in many people with breathing problems. It refers to a high-pitched sound when you breathe, typically when you exhale. Because breathing problems may indicate an underlying infection (such as COVID-19) or lung and heart conditions, it is important to consult a healthcare provider.

    QUESTION

    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma.
    See Answer

    Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2022

    References

    Image Source: iStock Images

    Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea): https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/16942-shortness-of-breath-dyspnea

    Coronavirus Recovery: Breathing Exercises: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-recovery-breathing-exercises

    Five Ways You Might Be Breathing Wrong: https://www.lung.org/blog/you-might-be-breathing-wrong

    Home Remedies for Shortness of Breath: https://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/home-remedies-breath

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