Emphysema Breathing Exercises

For people dealing with a chronic lung disease like emphysema, every breath doesn’t come easy. As the disease progresses over time, the amount of oxygen the lungs can absorb gets worse.

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom for emphysema sufferers as there are many ways to change one’s lifestyle to improve quality of life.

Some of those ways include eating a lung-healthy diet, creating a lung-healthy home and performing emphysema breathing exercises.

With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to offer some tips and information on emphysema breathing exercises.

What is Emphysema?

There are two types of chronic lung diseases, obstructive and restrictive.

Emphysema is one of the most prevalent forms of obstructive lung disease. Emphysema is a lung disease which destroys the air sacs in the lung over time, making it difficult to breathe.

As emphysema progresses, the inner walls of the air sacs form holes, weakening lung function and elasticity of the lungs’ walls. This limits the amount of oxygen entering the bloodstream.

Emphysema falls under the description of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.4 million adults have been diagnosed with emphysema, a total of 1.4 percent of people in the United States.

4 Emphysema Breathing Exercises to Try

Before starting any emphysema breathing exercises or routines, consult your primary care physician or pulmonologist to see if you are able to do any of these exercises. Luckily, most of these exercises are not physically demanding and can be done at home.

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragm breathing is a great and easy technique for people looking for emphysema breathing exercises.

This will help strengthen the diaphragm muscle to help people use less energy when breathing.

Below is a step-by-step list of instructions on how to perform “Diaphragmatic Breathing”:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Keep one hand on the upper chest and the other resting on your abdomen.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose and keep the one hand on your upper chest as still as possible.
  4. Exhale slowly through the mouth while keeping the hand on your upper chest still.
  5. Do this exercise between five and 10 minutes, up to three times a day.

2. The Huff-Cough Technique

Bouts of coughing are inevitable when dealing with a chronic lung disease. The “Huff-Cough Technique” is great for people looking to cough more effectively without getting fatigued; this is a great technique to try.

Here’s how to do the Huff-Cough Technique:

  1. Sit in a chair – or upright – take several deep breaths similarly to diaphragmatic breathing.
  2. Place one hand over your stomach and breathe normally.
  3. Tighten up your stomach and chest muscles with your mouth open.
  4. Force air out while whispering the word “huff.”

3. Pursed Lips Breathing

Pursed lips breathing is great for people looking to control their breath due to this exercise’s ability to help release trapped air from the lungs – a regular problem for those in later stages of emphysema. This technique also promotes relaxation and keeps the airways open for longer.

Below are some pursed lips breathing step-by-step instructions:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  2. Inhale slowly through the nostrils for two seconds – with the mouth closed.
  3. Exhale through the mouth for four seconds. When exhaling, pucker your lips like you’re giving a kiss.
  4. Breathe out with a slow, steady pace.

4. Stop, Rest, Continue

When doing any physical or aerobic exercise, it’s important to keep an active pace without overdoing it. If you begin to feel short-of-breath during the exercise, that’s ok. Use these quick steps to get you back to a comfortable level:

  • Stop your activity.
  • Take a seat and relax the shoulders.
  • Breathe in through the nostrils for two seconds – with your mouth closed.
  • Exhale through your mouth for slowly for four seconds.
  • Repeat this process until breathing returns to normal levels.
  • Then continue with the physical exercise.