When you have COPD, every breath counts.
One of the main symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath or breathlessness.
Follow these proven breathing techniques* to help you get the most out of each breath.
- Stop and rest in a comfortable position. See the 4 comfortable breathing positions.
- Put down your head and shoulders.
- Use your nose to breathe in and your mouth to breathe out.
- Breathe as fast as you need to.
- Next, start to breathe out more slowly, but without forcing the air. Try pursed-lip breathing.
- Begin to slow your breathing down.
- Start breathing through your nose.
- Once your breathing is under control, start diaphragmatic breathing, but only if you know it works for you.
- When you feel less short of breath, stay in this position and continue pursed-lip breathing for 5 minutes or until you feel your breathing is under control.
Properly positioning your body can help relieve and reduce your shortness of breath. Try these positions to see what helps you most.
- Sit down and put your back against the back of the chair. Roll your head forward, relax your shoulders downward. Rest your hands and forearms on your thighs, palms up. Don't put any weight on your hands. Rest your feet flat on the floor, knees pointed slightly out.
- Slouch in a chair. Roll your head forward and relax your shoulders downward. Your hands should rest on your stomach. Your feet should rest flat on the floor, knees pointed out.
- Put a pillow on a table and sit down. Fold your arms and rest them on the pillow. Keep your feet flat on the floor or raised on a stool. Rest your head on your arms. You can also use this position while standing. Rest your arms on a counter or on the back of a chair. Do not lean! Put one foot in front of the other and bend your knees slightly.
- Lean against a wall, pole, or other straight vertical surface that can support your weight. Place your feet slightly apart at a comfortable distance from the wall. Relax your head and shoulders.
Breathing control techniques
- With your mouth closed, breathe in through your nose slowly for a count of 1.
- Purse your lips (it should look and feel as if you were about to whistle).
- Breathe out gently for a count of 2. Do not try to force out the air.
- Repeat until you're no longer short of breath.
- Relax. Use a comfortable position and relax your shoulders.
- Place one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your stomach just above your waist.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. The hand on your stomach should go up. The hand on your chest should stay still.
- Breathe out slowly through pursed lips. The hand on your stomach should go down as you breathe out.
Getting the phlegm (pronounced "flem") out of your airways is extremely important to your breathing and health.
Phlegm in your lungs can clog your smaller airways and may become infected.
Whenever you have phlegm, take the time to clear out as much of it as possible. Controlled coughing is the recommended way to clear the phlegm from your lungs.
8 steps for controlled coughing
- Have a box of tissues handy and sit down.
- Slightly lean your head forward.
- Put both feet on the ground.
- Use diaphragmatic breathing to breathe in deeply.
- Hold your breath for 3 seconds.
- Keep your mouth slightly open and cough out twice. Your diaphragm should push upward. The first cough should bring up the phlegm (pronounced "flem"), and the second cough should move it towards the throat.
- Spit the phlegm into a tissue. Call your doctor if it's yellow, green, brown, or bloody. Then throw out the tissue.
- Take a break and repeat these steps once or twice if necessary.
*Adapted from the Canadian Lung Association.