Breathlessness can be a difficult symptom to live with, but there are ways you can reduce its impact on your life. Learning some breathing techniques can help.
If possible, it may be more helpful to practice these breathing techniques for the first time when you’re not feeling too breathless. That way you’ll become familiar with the techniques and will know how to use them during episodes of breathlessness. Knowing that there are things you can do when you feel breathless will also give you a sense of control. It might be helpful for someone to read the information to you when you practice the exercises for the first time.
Get into a comfortable position
When you feel breathless, it can help to be in a comfortable position that supports your upper chest muscles and allows your diaphragm and tummy to expand.
We describe four comfortable sitting and standing positions below. You can also see photos of the positions below.
If you are in bed, make sure you are sitting in an upright position with your back supported by pillows so that you can expand and open your chest area. Allow your head to rest back gently on the pillow so you can feel a release of tension in your neck. Rest your arms against your sides, supported by pillows if this is more comfortable.
- Sit in a chair in an upright position, with your back supported, legs uncrossed and feet resting comfortably on the floor.
- Let your shoulders drop and feel heavy, with your arms resting softly in your lap.
- Keep your head upright.
- Sit in a chair and lean forward with your upper body.
- Have your legs uncrossed and feet on the floor.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Slowly move forward a little so that your elbows and lower arms are resting on your thighs, supporting your upper body.
- Keep your knees shoulder-width apart and let your chest relax when you lean forward.
- Stand and lean forward on to a secure surface.
- Let your arms and elbows rest on the surface, so that you’re supporting the weight of your upper body.
- Keep your shoulders and chest relaxed by letting your forearms remain shoulder-width apart.
- Stand in an upright position and lean back against a secure surface. A wall is best.
- Let your arms drop to your sides and make your shoulders heavy and relaxed.