Living well with COPD

When you have COPD, every breath counts.

One of the main symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath or breathlessness.

Breathing techniques may be helpful during these times. Before trying them out, ask your health care provider whether they are appropriate for you and have them demonstrate the proper technique.

Controlled rapid breathing

  1. Get in a comfortable position. See the breathing positions below.
  2. Use your mouth to breathe in and out, as fast as you need to.
  3. Next, start to breathe out more slowly, but without forcing the air. Use pursed-lip breathing if it works for you.
  4. Begin to slow down your breathing, then start breathing in through your nose.
  5. Once your breathing is under control, start diaphragmatic breathing, but only if you know it works for you.
  6. Once you feel less short of breath, continue pursed-lip breathing for 5 minutes, or until you feel your breathing is under control.

Breathing positions

Properly positioning your body can help relieve and reduce your shortness of breath. Try these positions to see what helps you most.

  1. Sit down, with both of your feet on the ground. Lean forward slightly to help reduce the pressure on your diaphragm. Place your hands and forearms on your thighs, on a table or on a chair, with your palms up.
  2. 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. Lean your head and shoulder slightly forward, while resting your hands on your thighs, chair or table.

Breathing control techniques

Pursed-lip breathing

  1. With your mouth closed, breathe in through your nose slowly for a count of 2.
  2. Purse your lips (it should look and feel as if you were about to whistle).
  3. Breathe out gently through your mouth for a count of 4. Do not try to force out the air.
  4. Repeat until you're no longer short of breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing

  1. Relax. Use a comfortable position and relax your shoulders.
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your stomach just above your waist.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose. The hand on your stomach should go up. The hand on your chest should stay still.
  4. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips. The hand on your stomach should go down as you breathe out.

Adapted from the Canadian Lung Association.

*Adapted from the Canadian Lung Association.