• Asthma
  • Asthma

Your breath is your lifeline

Written by: Editors

Modified on: 

Breathing is something most people take for granted – except those with asthma. Despite effective pharmacotherapy, asthma continues to impair quality of life for most asthma patients. This article discusses the importance of non-pharmacological approaches, including respiratory therapy, to help people with asthma manage their symptoms and lead active lives. Of course, the information and tips provided below can also be useful for people who hyperventilate or suffer from other breathing problems.

Why healthy breathing is important

Healthy breathing is essential for people with asthma because it helps them to control their symptoms and live active and fulfilling lives. 

The powerful effect of respiratory therapy on asthma control

There is no doubt that medications are becoming increasingly effective. However, asthma still has a major impact on how people feel and live their lives. Non-pharmacological approaches, such as respiratory therapy and breathing retraining, can be helpful tools for managing symptoms. However, clinicians rarely advocate breathing retraining, and access to this intervention is restricted for most patients due to the limited availability of suitable physiotherapists and poor integration of breathing retraining into standard care. 

Nevertheless, breathing retraining programmes improve quality of life in patients with incompletely controlled asthma despite having little effect on lung function or airway inflammation. Such programmes can be offered conveniently and cost effectively as a self-guided digital audiovisual programme, contributing to a reduction in overall healthcare costs. 

What breathing exercises can you do yourself?

All exercises can be done at home when you’re not experiencing shortness of breath. Breathing exercises aren’t meant to replace your asthma medication, but they can be a helpful tool to improve your physical condition.  

Tell your doctor which types of breathing exercises you are practising at home and keep your inhaler handy. 

Pursed-lip breathing
Inhale deeply to a count of two, breathing in through your nose with your mouth closed. Purse or pucker your lips (as if you were going to blow out a candle) and slowly exhale to a count of four. Be sure to fully exhale all the air out of your lungs.

Buteyko breathing  

  • Inhale normally. 
  • After you exhale, hold your breath, using your thumb and index finger to close your nose. 
  • Hold your breath until you feel an urge to breathe and then inhale. 
  • Breathe normally for 10 seconds. 
  • Repeat the pattern with the controlled pause followed by regular breathing several times. 

Diaphragmatic breathing
Learning to breathe more deeply can help prevent hyperventilation (rapid breathing that can leave you feeling breathless) during an asthma attack. Diaphragmatic breathing moves the inhalation and exhalation from the chest to the belly.  

As you breathe in more deeply, you force the air all the way down into your diaphragm (the large muscle below your lungs that helps you inhale and exhale). Your belly should rise as you inhale and exhale.   

Practise diaphragmatic breathing while sitting in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you inhale and exhale, watch that the hand on your chest doesn’t move while the hand on your belly rises and falls. 

Non-pharmacological methods to help you breathe more freely:

  • Reduction blood count allergens,e.g. pets and dust mites.
  • Quit smoking. Do so under intensive supervision or get advice on a structured approach. (Also, do not use e-cigarettes or inhale second-hand smoke.) 
  • Do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days, like walking. 
  • Keep your weight in check. 
  • Get regular health check-ups. 
  • Do breathing exercises. 

Our affiliated doctors are here to help should you need any information or advice. 

Take the first step on your journey. Free your breath, free your life.

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