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Controlled Breathing Exercises for Pulmonary Fibrosis

By Darla Ferrara ; Updated August 14, 2017

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious respiratory condition that results in lung scarring. According to Mayo, injury to the deep tissue of the lungs will stiffen the area and make breathing difficult. Causes of trauma will vary. Long term exposure to environmental pollutants may be one factor. Other possibilities include chemotherapy, chronic illness and repeated infections. At times the exact cause is idiopathic, or unknown. Basic breathing exercises may improve lung function and ease breathing problems.

Lung Physiology

To understand the mechanisms behind this disease, you need to know a little bit about your lungs and how they work. When you inhale, muscles, such as the diaphragm, pull downward to change the air pressure in your chest. This causes air to rush in and expand the lungs. When you exhale, the process reverses. The muscles relax and increase the pressure, pushing out and deflating the lungs. Individuals with pulmonary fibrosis have repeated damage to the inner sacs of the lungs known as alveoli. Every time alveoli must rebuild from this damage, scar tissue forms around the sacs. This reduces the expansion of the lungs.

Pursed Lip Breathing

This is an exercise that will help if you become short of breath due to pulmonary fibrosis. Sit in a chair with your back straight. Relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Breathe in slowly through the nose. The breath should not be deep, do not force the lungs to fully expand. Continue inhaling to the count of two. Pucker your lips, as if getting ready to whistle, and blow the air out slowly for four counts. Use the pursed lip method for several minutes until breathing returns to normal and you feel comfortable.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique will strengthen the diaphragm, the large muscle under your ribs that changes air pressure in the lungs. Individuals with respiratory illnesses tend to have weak diaphragms because of difficulty breathing. Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Put a pillow under your head for support. Place one hand on your chest and the other below your rib cage. Breathe in through your nose for two counts. Attempt to expand your lungs as fully as possible. You should feel your stomach press against the hand sitting under the rib cage. Exhale and pull your stomach muscles inward as if trying to touch your back. This forces the lungs to fully deflate. Continue this exercise for several minutes to build up the diaphragm muscle. After time, when you get stronger, repeat this exercise sitting upright in a chair.

Forced Coughing

Forced coughing is a technique to remove excess mucus from the airways. According to the website Know COPD, mucus buildup is a common problem for those with respiratory illnesses, such as pulmonary fibrosis. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your feet pressed against the floor. Breathe deeply and feel the diaphragm expand. Hold your breath for three counts. Open your mouth and cough twice. This may bring up excess mucus. Expel the mucus onto a tissue and discard. Repeat until airways feel clear of mucus.

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