The lungs take in oxygen and leave out carbon dioxide through breathing. It often does not get noticed but is the most vital function. When a person is not able to breathe properly, then the overall physical ability of a person is reduced. Even walking a few steps or doing simple chores can seem daunting tasks. Therefore, shortness of breath can be very limiting and may alter the quality of life of the patient.
The medical term being dyspnea, it can be short or long-term, acute or chronic. Any problem in the heart or lungs can cause shortness of breath.
Shortness of breath can be caused by various conditions including:
- Lung infections
- Heart conditions including congestion and failure
- Any systemic illness or infection
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Given that shortness of breath is caused by almost any ill health condition, especially in people with chronic conditions, it is best that the lungs are empowered to improve their function and do not cause shortness of breath. The idea is to delay the onset of shortness of breath and also to reduce the severity.
Some techniques to reduce shortness of breath are:
- Breathe by reducing the rate of respiration. This reduces shallow breathing, which often happens, and so improves the amount of oxygen that reaches the system with each breath.
- The patient should learn to relax, sit, and pace around without exertion.
- Become aware of air movement during respiration – controlled breathing and active cycle of breathing techniques.
- Postural drainage – Depending on the area of the lung that is causing shortness of breath, the person is made to lie prone and turn to a side that will allow the fluid in that region to drain out.
- Overall relaxation techniques to improve airflow and control short of breath.
- Avoid bending down, as it can induce shortness of breath.
- Over-eating at one go in one meal should be avoided.
- Weight needs to be maintained, especially if not under control. This can lead to shortness of breath without any associated medical condition either.
- The patient should learn to push objects instead of pulling them.
- Heavy objects should not be lifted but moved down at ground level.
- Avoid extreme hot or cold showers.
- Quit smoking as it causes various lung problems.
Help physiotherapy provides for people who are short of breath:
- Improve exercise tolerance
- Calms the person
- Allows the person to control symptoms
- Improve the quality of life
- Provide manual treatment
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