Breathing exercises for COPD

What are breathing exercises for COPD?

Breathing exercises for COPD are special exercises that those affected can perform at home or at work independently and without aids.
The breathing exercises consist, for example, of postures or positions that facilitate breathing (e.g.Driver's seat), coughing techniques or the so-called lip brake.

In general, they serve to improve the breathing situation for a short time. You still have e.g. result in an increase in the amount of air or a reduction in the pressures present in the chest.
Ultimately, the breathing exercises in COPD should improve and ease breathing.

Why should one do a breathing exercise with COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is a chronic inflammation of the airways. The lower airways are narrowed, often accompanied by coughing, shortness of breath and sputum.

It is believed that the cause lies in an imbalance between protective and destructive enzymes in the alveoli, which are released by the underlying inflammation. The amount of air that can be moved decreases. The force to be exerted for breathing increases.

As a result, the respiratory muscles are overloaded, the auxiliary respiratory muscles shorten due to the constant overload and the mobility of the chest is restricted. What is described as the most serious problem for those affected is the constant feeling of shortness of breath. The breathing exercises that those affected can perform at home or at work are primarily intended to ease breathing.
Furthermore, the personal resilience, the symptoms in general can be reduced and the quality of life can be increased through the breathing exercises. However, it is important to know that the disease-related changes in the lungs cannot be stopped in their progression.

Read more on the subject at:

  • Course of COPD
  • Life expectancy in COPD

Instructions for the breathing exercise

One breathing exercise that can be done at home without the supervision of a doctor is called the lip brake.

In COPD, the bronchi collapse as the disease progresses. This makes it difficult to breathe out and the feeling of breathlessness occurs. If you get a slight resistance when exhaling through your lips, the collapse of the bronchi can be prevented.
The exercise consists of inhaling through your nose with your mouth closed. One should breathe in until the cheeks puff out slightly. The lips are loosely placed on one another. The air should then flow out of its own accord over the lips. It is important not to force the air out or to exhale too long, but rather to let the air escape through the lips very gently and with slight resistance.

There are also body positions or postures that facilitate breathing. The aim of these exercises is better ventilation of the lungs and weight relief for the muscles.

There is, for example, the so-called 'coachman's seat'.
You sit on the front third of a chair. The legs are slightly spread to the side and are placed firmly on the floor at a right angle. The upper body is bent slightly forward. The elbows rest on the thighs.

Another posture is to sit upside down in a chair and rest your elbows on the back of the chair. In order to relieve the chest and ultimately to make breathing easier, you can support yourself with your hands on your thighs while breathing in a secure, slightly wide-legged position.
The upper body is slightly bent forward, the legs slightly bent.

In most cases of COPD, the disease is accompanied by a cough with highly viscous sputum.
You can make it easier to cough up the mucus through ’controlled coughing’. To do this, sit on a chair with your legs parallel on the floor and your arms crossed in front of your chest. You breathe in, hold your breath briefly, bend forward slightly and cough twice briefly and intensely.
The arms should also press on the stomach when coughing.

There are many different breathing exercises with which you can make breathing easier and relieve the muscles somewhat. However, it is very important to be able to perform this in a controlled and safe manner in order to achieve a good result.

Also read our articles:

  • End-stage COPD
  • Therapy of COPD

The duration and frequency of breathing exercises in COPD

The duration and frequency of breathing exercises for COPD depend on the individual's judgment as necessary.

In general, it is advisable to do the breathing exercises several times a day. Especially in cases of acute shortness of breath or after intense physical exertion, the use of breathing exercises is recommended to make breathing easier. The exercises can be carried out for several minutes or until comfortable and adequate breathing is achieved.

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