Breathing exercises for COPD

What is meant by breathing exercises in COPD?

Breathing exercises in COPD are special exercises that sufferers can perform at home or at work independently and without the use of aids. The breathing exercises consist, for example, of postures or positions that make breathing easier (e.g. coach seat), coughing techniques or the so-called lip-brake. In general, they serve to improve the breathing situation for a short time. They also result, for example, in an increase in the volume of air or a reduction in the pressure in the chest. Ultimately, the breathing exercises in COPD should improve and facilitate breathing.

Why should one do a breathing exercise in COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is a chronic inflammation of the airways. It leads to a narrowing of the lower airways, often accompanied by coughing, shortness of breath and sputum. It is believed to be caused by an imbalance between protective and destructive enzymes in the alveoli (= alveoli of the lungs), which are released by the underlying inflammation.

The amount of air that can be moved decreases. The force required for breathing increases. As a result, the respiratory muscles are overstrained, the respiratory assistance muscles are shortened due to the constant overstrain and the chest is restricted in its mobility.

The most serious problem described for those affected is the constant feeling of breathlessness. The respiratory exercises that sufferers can perform at home or at work primarily serve to facilitate breathing. Furthermore, the personal resilience, the symptoms in general can be reduced and the quality of life can be increased by the breathing exercises. However, it is important to know that the disease-related changes in the lungs cannot be stopped in their progression.

Instructions for the breathing exercise

A breathing exercise that can be performed at home without the supervision of a doctor is the so-called lip-brake. In COPD, the bronchi collapse as the disease progresses. This makes it difficult to breathe out and a feeling of breathlessness occurs.

If a slight resistance is encountered when breathing out through the lips, the collapse of the bronchi can be prevented. The exercise consists of breathing in through the nose with the mouth closed. One should inhale until the cheeks swell slightly.

The lips are placed loosely on top of each other. The air should then flow out over the lips by itself. It is important here not to press the air out or exhale for too long, but to let the air escape very gently and with slight resistance through the lips.

Furthermore, there are body positions or postures that make breathing easier. The aim of these exercises is to improve the ventilation of the lungs and to relieve the weight of the muscles. There is for example the so-called ‘coachman’s seat’.

Here 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 right angles. The upper body is slightly bent forward.

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

The upper body is slightly bent forward, the legs slightly bent. In most cases, COPD is accompanied by a cough with highly viscous sputum. A ‘controlled cough‘ can be used to facilitate the expectoration of mucus.

To do this, sit down on a chair with your legs parallel on the floor and your arms crossed in front of your chest. Breathe in, hold your breath briefly, bend forward slightly and cough twice briefly and intensively. When coughing, the arms should additionally press on the stomach. There are many different breathing exercises with which one can ease breathing and relieve the muscles a little. However, it is very important to be able to perform them in a controlled and safe manner in order to achieve a good result.