The Pain Exchange

Breathing exercises


Helen Alsop 

Covid 19 is a virus that is affecting the respiratory system.  Mild symptoms include a dry cough and temperature.  More serious symptoms affect the lungs and cause shortness of breath and fatigue. 

If you are well it is important to keep as active as possible during this time of isolation.  Joining the exercise class weekly is one way and making sure you get out for a walk or other form of exercise is another way to remain active.

If you become unwell with mild symptoms you may well not be able to exercise as much as you would wish, and if you have a temperature you should be resting. Some people find the fatigue puts them out of action for some time.  

There has been some information on social media recommending the use of deep breathing exercises for people with covid-19. As we do not know enough about the virus at this point in time, we can only advise on what we already know.  Deep breathing exercises may well be helpful because they can encourage air into the depths of the lungs, if the depths of the lungs are not used they can close and become at risk of infection. Deep breaths can also increase the amount of oxygen getting into the lungs and the amount of carbon dioxide leaving it.

It is important to seek medical help and assistance if you are short of breath or struggling to breathe. Hospital treatment aims to ensure that air is getting to all areas of your lungs so it seems logical to expect that doing breathing exercises, or exercises which increase air into your lungs, would be helpful. If you have to stay in bed for longer than a few days it is important to try and sit out for short lengths of time to allow air further down into the lungs.  When lying in bed the best position is alternating lying on each side.

Whether sitting, standing or lying in bed trying to do some deep breathing exercises will be helpful in getting air to the bottom of your lungs.  Try these exercises 

Start by placing your hand on your chest and breathing in through your nose for 5 secs hold the breath and then slowly breathe out.  Repeat this twice. Breathing in through the nose warms and moistens the air that you take in, breathing in dry air through the mouth may irritate the dry cough and not help you.

Next place your hands around your rib cage and breathe in through the nose again gently pushing your hands outwards hold your breath for a few seconds and then breathe out slowly – again repeat twice.

Lastly place your hands around the bottom of your shoulder blades and breathe in gently pushing your hands outwards.  You should feel your chest expand fully.  Slowly breathe out.  On the second repetition try a little sniff to take in that extra bit of air.

Once you have gone through this cycle of deep breathing relax and let your diaphragm rise and fall gently for a couple of minutes.  The following link gives a good explanation of this breathing technique and will be helpful for all the reasons it talks about.

These exercises may make you cough as you increase the air into your lungs.  This is not a bad thing but may mean you have to rest in between each section.

Try and do these exercises hourly 

Once you start to feel better walking around and sitting up will be as affective but it is worth continuing with the breathing exercises until you are able to take a normal walk outside again.