Controlling breathing

If simple activities around the house or walking short distances cause you to “huff and puff”, learning to control your breathing should be essential. 

Dyspnea or shortness of breath is a result of shortage of oxygen in the bloodstream and can be caused by chronic pulmonary diseases or over-exertion. 

In addition to medical management, the following self-management strategies can assist when you become short of breath.

  1. Stop what you’re doing and rest in a comfortable position.  This position can be sitting with your back against the chair or sitting in a comfortable chair, with your arms resting on a pillow or on a table.  If standing, place your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Breathe in and out as fast as necessary through your mouth.  Lower your head and shoulders and try to relax.  Try pursing your lips while exhaling.  A simple way to achieve this is to position your lips similar to if you were blowing out a candle.
  3. Start to slow your breathing by making your exhalations longer.  A good aim is to make your exhalation longer than your inhalation. 
  4. As your breathing starts to slow, start to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. 
  5. Stay in this position for several minutes until your breathing is fully recovered and under control.


For further information, speak to your physiotherapist who can assist you with a range of positioning techniques to assist with controlling your breathing.  Your physiotherapist can also assist in providing a graduated exercise program to safely increase your exercise tolerance.

Jason Lee APAM
B. Physiotherapy
Malvern East Physiotherapy

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