Did you struggle while taking a full breath… or felt ‘winded’? It happens if you are unable to take a full breath. You might feel that you went through tedious activities or intense exercises. This condition is termed shortness of breath. Few specialized breathing exercises for shortness of breath are effective to control the situation.
The diaphragm is the prime muscle that initiates and controls the breathing mechanism. It is a spring-like substance and elastic in nature. It acts as a door during breathing. 80% of the breathing takes place by the rhythmic diaphragm contraction. The diaphragm is a fine muscle that is located at the base of our chests. It acts as a separator between the abdomen and chest.
Why shortness of breath happen?
Due to different pathophysiological conditions like obesity, stress, depression, or hernia, the diaphragm cannot act appropriately. So, the oxygen supply to our lungs becomes scanty. Thus the oxygen saturation goes down, and the SPO2 level also shows a lower value. As the body gets insufficient oxygen, the person becomes unable to breathe properly. As a result, that person may face tiredness, alteration of the heartbeat, sometimes dizziness. The untreated shortness of breath could have alarming consequences. This could draw serious harm to the lungs and other organs of our body.
What is shortness of breath?
Shortness of breath or dyspnoea is a problematic condition of the lungs. The lung cannot get sufficient oxygen through normal inhalation. You might inhale before the completion of the prior exhale.
Long term consequence of dyspnoea creates abnormal lung and cardiac complications that might lead to multi-organ failure.
SOB is a common symptom of the second wave of COVID 19.
The typical symptoms can associate with the following–
- Tiredness after minimal activity
- Associate with dry cough
- May or may not be associated with fever
- Rapid inhalation-exhalation than the standard rate
- Chest tightness
- A feeling that the body is not sufficient oxygen
Hospitalization is essentially required if you experience severe symptoms like severe chest tightness/pain or SPO2 90 or less, breathing difficulties, or Slurish speech. Bad posture and a long time sitting are two significant causes of SOB.
Why shortness of breathing happens?
In some cases anxiety (chronic or situational or acute)/ panic attack pull the trigger of SOB. Sometimes, people might become confused between a panic attack and the cardiac attack.
People can also experience the SOB,
- Extreme temperatures
- High altitudes
- Poor quality of air
- Strenuous activities and exercises
You also might feel the SOB if you have knots in the muscle (trigger point).
Medical conditions are often responsible for triggering SOB.
- Heart arrhythmia/ attack
- Heart failure (congestive)
- COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Guillain Berry syndrome
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Lung disease
- Pulmonary edema and embolism
- Pulmonary-arterial hypertension
SOB and Covid19
Shortness of breathing is one of the most significant symptoms of Covid19. If you are having the Covid19 symptoms from low to moderate level, you can stay at home in isolation and under proper medical guidelines-precautions.
If you face the following symptoms without any delay, you need to go for a hospitalization.
- Bluish lips
- Severe chest tightness
- Acute breathing trouble
When can you feel shortness of breath?
There are both general and clinical reasons behind SOB.
- if you are suffering from a hemoglobin deficiency
- if the breathing muscles are weak
- tendency of asthma
- if you have a smoking habit
- fluid accumulation around lungs
SOB and exercise
Shortness of breath while exercising / shortness of breath during exercise: When the air track is blocked with several and scattered inflammation, it causes severe breathing trouble. This situation is termed asthma. Allergen and environmental pollution worsen asthma patients. The people who are suffering from asthma, exercise-induced asthma is evident.
Prolonged and intense exercise triggers asthma. During the exercise, physical stress touches its maximum as the body movement remains at the maximum level. This chronic exhaustion triggers exercise-induced asthma.
The usual breathing process takes place with warm and moist air through the nose; at the time of exercise, people inhale dry and cold air through the mouth. This process makes the air passage narrower. As a result, people experience the following symptoms of exercise-induced asthma,
- Asthma + sticky cough
- Chest tightening
- Fatigue during exercising
- Breathing shortness
These symptoms are visible 5–20 minutes after the brief exercise. If these symptoms are not treated on time, exercise-induced asthma could be seen.
Shortness of breath after exercise:
Do you feel out of breath after every exercise schedule? It might be a serious signal of SOB or exercise-induced asthma. As the lungs fail to fulfill the oxygen requirement of the body muscle after intense exercise, SOB takes place. Exercise makes the air passages narrower due to exercise-induced inflammations. The after-effect of the rigorous and continuous exercises sometimes takes place as an SOB.
There are several effective medicines to control exercise-induced asthma instantly. Inhaler and Albuterol are two effective medicines to prevent a fatality. Few natural remedies are also available for managing asthma.
- Herbs and natural supplements are enriched with Vitamin C, E, A, magnesium, and antioxidants.
- People should avoid allergic foods.
- Yoga is highly beneficial for controlling exercise-induced asthma.
- Manage the cardiac rate
General activities responsible for SOB
Shortness of breath after walking: People sometimes experience SOB symptoms while walking. Causes like obesity, asthma, or anxiety are often responsible for a walking-induced SOB. Besides these causes, some underlying medical complications are also responsible for such SOB.
The causes of walking-induced SOB are,
- Heart arrhythmia
- Pulmonary embolism
- Interstitial-lung disease
People can ease this walking-induced SOB through,
- The deeper or faster breathing process
- Inhalation through nasal passage and exhalation through the mouth
- Breath in before any short activity and breath out after that activity (breath in before stand up and breath out after standing up)
- Follow paced breathing (while walking, inhale for a step and exhale for one-two steps)
If you face this SOB frequently, you need to go for a medical consultation on a priority basis.
Shortness of breath after walking upstairs / shortness of breath climbing stairs:
This is caused due to exertional intolerance. When you move towards the staircase, your heart rate is low, muscles are relaxed and cold, and your body is in a normal state. The body is yet to get ready for climbing stairs. Suddenly you started climbing the stairs with a mix of cardio and single-leg squats. Suddenly your heart rate increases and muscles twitch faster. As a result, your body suddenly requires more and more oxygen and triggers SOB.
You can follow the followings to ease such SOB,
- Exercises such as explosive movements, jumps, or sprints
- Bodyweight exercises such as lunges and squats
- Quit smoking
If you have additional symptoms such as swollen ankle-fit and chest pain along with shortness of breathing, you need to go for a medical consultation urgently.
Shortness of breath after running a short distance:
In such cases, the weakness of the respiratory muscles (such as the diaphragm) causes shortness of breathing. Due to running, the CO2 accumulation rate increases within our bodies. To keep the breathing process effective, the body requires more oxygen than usual.
This phenomenon causes gasping and shortness of breathing. When the oxygen level increases and the CO2 level decreases, the breathing frequency becomes normal.
The ways to reduce the shortness of breathing are,
- Sufficient warm-up and stretching before running
- Follow effective breathing exercises
- Use the treadmill for running
- Incorporate walk in the running schedule
If the symptoms get worse, you should consult a doctor immediately.
7 best breathing exercises for shortness of breath
Besides medication, exercises are effective for shortness of breath.
1. Sitting forward:
To make breathing easier, do not just sit; also relax when you sit.
- Make a 45-degree angle (upper portion of your body) when you sit. That means sitting on a stool or chair, keeping the feet flat upon the floor, and leaning the chest a little forward.
- Keep the elbow on the knees. Hold the chin with both of your hands. You need to keep the neck and shoulder muscles at ease.
2. Pursed-lip breathing:
This simple breathing exercise will make your breathing easier by making them more prolonged and more profound. This exercise will take the trapped air out of the lungs. You can pursue this exercise any moment you feel shortness of breath.
- Keep the neck and shoulder muscles at ease.
- Inhale through the nasal passages on the counting of two. Keep the mouth closed. The breath in needs to be slower and deeper.
- Exhale slowly, keeping the lips pursed (as if you want to whistle). The breath out should be on the count of four.
3. Stand with a supportive back:
You can also have a relaxed breath while standing.
- Stand in front of the wall, keeping the hips and back on it.
- Maintain the feet distance along with the shoulder-width. Relax the hands on your thighs.
- Relax the shoulders. Lean the body (upper portion) a little forward. Dangle the arms in front of the thighs.
4. Sitting forward with table support:
You need both table and char to complete this breathing exercise. This will help to inhale, exhale, and hold the breaths.
- Keep a table in front of the chair. Sit on the chair, keeping the feet flat on a floor.
- Lean the chest a little forward and put your arms on the table in a relaxed posture.
- Rest the head on a comfortable pillow or forearms.
5. Sleeping relaxed:
The symptoms of SOB often generate at bedtime. This will degrade the sleeping quality. You can follow the exercise whether you sleep on the back or any side.
- You need to elevate the head with pillows and keep the same numbers of pillows under the knees. This is for the sleeping on the back postures.
- If you prefer to sleep on the sides, you can keep a pillow between the legs and elevate the head with pillows. This exercise will make breathing easier by relaxing the airways.
6. Standing with arms support:
Stand in front of any flat surface or table.
- Keep the neck muscle relaxed.
- Rest the hands or elbows on that flat surface or table.
- Rest the head on your forearms.
- Relax the shoulder muscles.
7. Diaphragmatic breathing:
This is one of the most effective breathing exercises for an SOB.
- Sit with the bend-knees. Keep your neck, head, and shoulders relaxed.
- Put the hands on the belly.
- Inhale slowly through the nasal passages. While breathing in, the belly needs to be bent inwardly with the hands.
- Tighten the muscles while breathing out. Exhale only through the pursed lips.
- Breathe out the deeper and longer than the breath in.
- Continue for five minutes regularly.
Besides this, you can try few tips
Coffee: According to the scientist, coffee is a natural muscle relaxer, especially in the airways. Asthma patients get relief up to four hours after having coffee by improving the lung functionalities.
Use a fan: According to several scientific studies, fan flow can ease the symptoms of SOB. You need to hold a tiny fan in front of your face and start the flow.
Lifestyle change for SOB
- Quit tobacco and alcohol
- Ignore environmental toxins, allergens, and pollutants.
- Avoid exhaustions
- Cut off the excess body weight
- Be under regular medical consultation if you have asthma, bronchitis, or COPD.
- Maintain a healthy sleeping and diet.
Importance of different breathing exercises in COVID 19
Lungs and air-tracts inflammations are the common Covid19 symptom. These inflammations create the breathing process to worsen in the Covid19. Pneumonia is a common consequence for the Covid19 survivors. The lungs fill with mucus and fluids in pneumonia, and these create a critical breathing process.
Covid19 impacts the respiratory tract and thus obstructs the airflow. This condition efficiently induces the ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and asthma. Deep and efficient breathing exercises strengthen the lung-functionalities.
Different breathing techniques clear the lungs, respiratory tracks, and air passages from congestion, mucus, and other obstruction. Effective breathing exercise is also helpful to reduce the inflammations in the air passages and to breathe organs.
Deep breathing allows more oxygen into the lungs and eases the breathing process during the Covid19.
Specialized breathing technique for shortness of breath
1. Diaphragmatic breathing:
Diaphragmatic breathing is a kind of breathing exercise. It helps to strengthen and improve the functionality of the diaphragm. This breathing exercise is also known as abdominal or belly breathing. Normal breathing does not use the most total capacity of the lungs.
Diaphragmatic breathing exercise involves diaphragm and abdomen in the inhalation and exhalation process. This breathing technique has a series of holistic health benefits. It reduces high blood pressure, stress, anxiety and balances other critical metabolic activities. This breathing exercise is based on relaxation methods and meditation.
Diaphragmatic breathing has uncountable benefits as it is a meditation-centric breathing exercise that reduces anxiety, depression, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and insomnia.
Few of the benefits of Diaphragmatic breathing,
- Enhance relaxation by reducing the cortisol secretion
- Balance the heart-rate
- Reduces the high level of blood pressure
- Manage the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms
- Improves muscle strength and stability
- Enhances the body-tolerance capacity, especially for the people who follow intense exercises
- Reduces the probability of muscle injury
- This technique involves slow and deep breathing. This helps to reduce the level of energy loss while practicing this breathing technique.
Diaphragmatic breathing enhances the activity, strength, and efficiency of the lungs. This is also helpful in improving good quality sleeping and other important metabolic activities, reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and IBS.
2. 4-7-8 breathing method:
- Exhale until the lungs become empty
- Breath in through the nose (mouth closed) with the counting of 4
- Hold the breath with a count of 7
- Breath out only through the mouth with a count of 8
The ratio is more important than time. If you are unable to hold the breath for long, speed up the process, but the ratio should be 4:7:8. You can elongate the time along with this ratio only by continuous practice.
This exercise acts as a natural tranquilizer for our nervous system. This exercise shows its efficiency over time through practice and repetition.
You should practice this exercise twice a day.
3. Soma breathing:
Soma breathing is a specialized breathing exercise that helps to normalize the breathing rate. The anxious or sick people often complete 20+ breathe a minute. Soma breathing regulates the breathing rate and lowers it down up to 3-4 breathes a minute. This breathing process controls the disease by balancing emotion and encouraging deep breaths.
Different breathing equipment for improve shortness of breath and exercise tolerance
1. Volumetric spirometer:
This contains a large chamber for volume measurement and a low-breathing filter. This unit includes a flow indicator (good/better/ best) to visualize the regular improvement.
- Design: Ergonomic and compact
- Very efficient
- Built-in handle
- Filter screen is available within the mouthpiece
2. Expand-A-Lung Breathing Exerciser:
This helps to strengthen the respiratory muscles and increase the intake level of oxygen. Regular use of this device enhances the longer and deeper breathing capacity. You can hold the breath longer by using this exerciser. The everyday use of this device also increases lung functionalities. It enhances the better air-exchanges process by removing the trapped air from alveoli.
- Silicon mouthpiece
- Easy to operate
- Beneficial for the asthma patients
3. Deep breathing lung exerciser:
This breathing device contains three tubes. Each tube includes a floating ball of different colors. When you exhale through the mouthpiece, the ball of the first chamber moves up. Along with the increased exhalation force, the other 2 balls will also float within their chambers. The first chamber is denominated with 600 cc/sec; the followings are 900 cc/sec. and 1200 cc/sec.
- Easy cleaning
- Increases lung stamina
- Increases lung expansion capacity
- Measure the strengths of exhalation and inhalation
4. POWER-breathe plus breathing trainer:
Its benefits are scientifically proven. It improves the endurance and strength of the respiratory muscles.
- Helpful in shortness of breathing
- Instant relief
5. The breather respiratory muscle trainer:
This breathing exerciser is highly effective for dysphagia, COPD, asthma, and sleeping problems. It empowers and activates our respiratory muscles. This exerciser trains both expiratory and inspiratory muscles simultaneously and independently. It improves the vocal-cord-airflow. It reduces shallow breathing by inducing deep or diaphragmatic breathing.
- Easy cleaning and maintenance
- Portable and light-weight
- Adjustable setting for air pressure
- Maintain an oxygen circulation among the vital organs
- Enhances the lung’s capacity and strength
- Not durable
Breathing is one of the necessities for survival. Healthy breathing gives us both a healthy body and mind. We often face breathing difficulties for several common or underlying reasons. There are wide varieties of breathing exercises to heal the breathing difficulties; we have to follow them precisely to get the ultimate benefit from them.
If the breathing difficulties and prolonged and severe you need to consult a physician immediately. This article elaborates almost all the aspects on the shortness of breathing, though there are more to reveal unexplored breathing exercises for shortness of breathing.