A respiratory therapist can help people with COPD practice the following techniques:

Pursed-lip breathing. First, inhale through your nose, then exhale with your lips pursed in a whistling or kissing position. Each inhalation should take about two seconds, and each exhalation about four to six seconds. It is not exactly clear how pursed-lip breathing relieves symptoms, but it appears to work by keeping the airways open.

Diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is the main muscle used for normal breathing. People with COPD, however, may also use the muscles in the rib cage, neck and abdomen to breathe. This method is less efficient than using the diaphragm.

To practice using the diaphragm, lie on your back, place your hand or a small book on your abdomen, and breathe. Your hand or the book should rise on inhalation and fall on exhalation. Practice for 20 minutes twice daily. Once you have mastered this skill while lying down, try to do it with your hand while sitting up.

Forward-bending posture. Breathing while bending slightly forward from the waist relieves symptoms for some people with severe COPD, possibly because the diaphragm has more room to expand.

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 08 Aug 2011

Last Modified: 07 Aug 2013