Living with Dyspnea–How to breathe easier
Dyspnea (pronounced disp–NEE–uh)
is a medical term for difficult or labored
breathing. Having dyspnea can be hard
to live with. You may get short of breath
during daily activities and become anx-
ious when your breathing changes.
Medications may help, and to get the
most benefit you should take them
exactly as your health care team
Pulmonary exercises for dyspnea
should be individualized for each
person. Experts such as respiratory
therapists, physical therapists, respira-
tory nurses, and pulmonary specialist
physicians work with individual patients
with these exercises.
Your respiratory experts may recom-
mend ways to help you breathe and
manage dyspnea. These include
pursed-lip breathing, positioning,
paced breathing, and desensitization.
This may seem awkward at first, but it
eases labored breathing.
1. Breathe in through your mouth or
2. Purse your lips together (as if you
were whistling). Then, breathe out.
Try to breathe out until all the air is
gone. One way to do this is to take
twice as long to breathe out as you
breathe in. For example, count
“one…two,” as you breathe in. Purse
your lips, then count “one…two…
three…four,” as you breathe out.
When your muscles are relaxed,
breathing is easier. Positioning helps
when you get short of breath while
doing something, such as climbing
1. Rest against the wall and lean
forward with your hands on your
thighs. This position relaxes your
chest and shoulders, freeing them
to help you breathe. Use pursed-lip
2. If you can, sit down with your arms
resting on your legs. Continue to do
If you find it hard to relax your muscles,
ask your nurse to show you other ways
to do this. Other body positions may
also work for you. Try them until you
find the best one.
Paced breathing prevents or decreases
shortness of breath when you walk or
lift light object