When you are struggling to breathe, there are a few positions you can put yourself in that will help open up your chest cavity and help make it easier to breathe. All of these positions are thought to give the diaphragm more room to descend. It might not be a bad idea to try and practice these so they become more natural before you are in a situation where you feel short of breath and are working under distress. While in any of these positions, remember to practice your breathing techniques, especially pursed lip breathing, when you feel short of breath.
The first is to stand or sit leaning forward slightly, letting your arms hang slightly forward. This works well when at home as well as when in public when you may want to remain inconspicuous. An altered version of this position is to lean over with your hands resting on their upper thighs. When you do this, try using your shoulders and arms as a brace, further engaging your accessory muscles when you breathe. Some people like to alter this position by sliding their hands a little farther down their legs. Be careful not to place your hands beyond your knees, as this will actually make it more difficult to breathe, especially in people who have a pot belly.
A standing form of this position would be to lean forward over a table, counter, or other object that stands about three or four feet tall. For many people a counter, table, or the back of a couch is the perfect height for this position. Lean forward, supporting yourself with your arms, allow your chest to open up, and practice pursed lip breathing. Try to relax, control your breathing, and calm yourself.
If you do prefer to sit, try placing your hands on your knees or thighs and lean slightly forward, bracing yourself, again, with your shoulders and arms. Once comfortable, relax, control your breathing, and calm yourself.You can try leaning over the table, laying your head against your folded arms, opening up your chest, and allowing your diaphragm to descend. Practice pursed lip breathing. You can also use a pillow with this position, wrapping your arms around the pillow and raising it off the table. Relax, control your breathing, and calm yourself.
The “Butterfly” is another position you can try to relieve your shortness of breath. To practice this position, sit up straight in a chair with your arms to your side and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head and raise your elbows with your shoulders. Breathe in slowly through your nose. As you breathe out slowly through pursed lips, bend slowly over toward your knees, bringing your elbows in toward your face. Bend over as far as is comfortable for you, and as you inhale raise back up to your sitting position.
For some, a horizontal position is comfortable and beneficial to try when experiencing shortness of breath, and circumstances allow. When you have COPD, it is a good idea to sleep/lay down with a few pillows supporting you. Many people find it more difficult to sleep the lower their head is. It is also important to listen to your body. If you find it more difficult to breathe when laying down, especially if it is sudden or worsening over a few days, contact your physician.
One of the most comfortable positions is to lie on your side, supported by three or four pillows. Place another pillow in front of you to prevent you from slipping, and cross your top knee over in front of you. Relax, control your breathing, and calm yourself. It is important for you to focus on positive things. Everything is made up of energy. Energy is transferable. We can help determine our level of health and the progression of disease by considering where our energy is spent. Dwelling upon negative energy will have a negative effect on us in countless ways.
In an effort to avoid this, and instead harbor and transfer positive energy within ourselves and the world around us, we need to train ourselves in this method of positive thinking. For most people, positive self statements are a good place to start. Use these daily and practice with devotion the process of focusing on positive energy for yourself, as well as those around you.