COPD Breathing Techniques

Before starting these techniques, ask your health care provider if they are right for you.
Having COPD makes it harder to breathe. And when it’s hard to breathe, it’s normal to get anxious, making you feel even more short of breath.

There are two breathing techniques that can help you get the air you need without working so hard to breathe: pursed-lips breathing and diaphragmatic (also called belly or abdominal) breathing.
Better Breathing Tip: It’s normal to hold your shoulders tense and high. Before starting any breathing technique, take a minute to drop your shoulders down, close your eyes, and relax.

This breathing technique helps you focus, slow your breathing down and stay calm. Pursed-lips breathing should be used during and after exercise. It should be used with any activity that makes you feel short of breath.

To do pursed-lips breathing:

  1. Breathe in through your nose (as if you are smelling something) for about 2 seconds.
  2. Pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake.
  3. Breathe out very slowly through pursed-lips, two to three times longer than you breathed in.
  4. Repeat.

Pursed-Lips Breathing

Pursed-lips breathing helps with the following:

  • Slows your breathing down
  • Keeps airways open longer so your lungs can get rid of more stale, trapped air
  • Reduces the work of breathing
  • Increases the amount of time you can exercise or perform an activity
  • Improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide


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