COPD is the abbreviation for the Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a term which groups together a variety of progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and irreversible asthma. The hallmark symptom of this disease is increasing dyspnea or in layman terms known as breathlessness.

At the moment, there is no known cure to completely stop the progression of COPD and thus is potentially incurable. With timely diagnosis and right management strategy, COPD progression can be slowed down and the affected person can lead a good life with minimal symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of COPD:

1. Chest tightness
2. Wheezing
3. An excessive cough
4. Shortness of breath and increasing difficulty in breathing
Exacerbations of this disease can occur which result in the patient ending up the emergency room with their lives in considerable danger. It is of utmost importance to know that untreated COPD can result in cardiorespiratory problems and worsening respiratory infections which ultimately lead to death.

Management and Treatment or COPD:

COPD diagnosis involves a series of tests that include blood tests, radiological imaging tests and lung function tests (the most important of which is the spirometry). These test reports can be interpreted by general practitioners and pulmonologists.

The treatment which is used for COPD is chosen not for its ability to cure the disease but to slow down the progression of this fatal disease. The treatment involves a series of medications to ease the symptoms and to provide resistance against infective organisms. Other modes of treatments include chest physiotherapy to remove the mucus plugs which are responsible for the chest tightness and wheezing symptoms. Surgery is also used in extreme cases as a last resort when medications start failing its function.

Breathing exercises for COPD:

Although COPD leads a man to be severely dependent on medications, but by a person’s own individual efforts he can gain back his health and improve the quality of his life. These small steps include breathing exercises which have been recommended by experts in this field due to which a considerable improvement was seen in the patient’s state. We will describe a few of these exercises in the rest of our article:

1. Pursed lip breathing exercise for COPD:

Breathing exercises are a part of pulmonary rehab but the best thing about these exercises is that these can be done in the convenience of your own home. These exercises if done properly can help the patient dispose off the old, unoxygenated air, and help the patient take in the new, fresh and oxygenated air. This breathing if done right can encourage slow breathing. This exercise can be performed by a few simple steps:

1. Sit in a comfortable space with minimal distractions.
2. Relax your whole body and mind.
3. Keep your mouth closed and breathe in and out slowly using only your nose.
4. Pucker or purse your lips tightly in a whistleblowing fashion.

 This breathing technique should be practiced each day for 5 to 10 minutes daily.

2. Diaphragmatic breathing:

In this kind of breathing, as the name suggests the diaphragm is used for the person. The diaphragm is a muscle which aids the lungs in inhaling and exhaling. COPD patients fall into the habit of using their back and shoulders instead of the diaphragm, this worsens their COPD symptoms. To perform this exercise the following steps should be undertaken:

1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable space without any distractions and your hands placed on your belly.
2. Relax your whole body and mind.
3. Breathe in and out slowly, feeling your lungs inflate with each inhalational breath and your belly moving outwards.
4. Slowly breathe out gently through the pursed lips making sure that it lasts for long.

Repeat this exercise a few times for around 5 to 10 minutes each day.

3. Singing classes:

Singing classes are not just a recreational activity instead it was also found that patients with COPD fared better if they undertook singing classes. It is postulated that singing helps aid the recommended diaphragmatic breathing which improves the patient’s situation. It can be even more effective if paired properly with pulmonary rehab and pursed lip exercises.

According to a long-term research by Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, it was found that Singing has significantly improved COPD patients’ symptoms. This showed that singing reduced anxiety and improved quality of life.

4. Yoga:

Yoga is one of the best exercises for improving COPD and general overall health. Specific postures and relaxing techniques have been known to improve breathing in a COPD patient. These techniques are used to improve flexibility and wellness. There are over 100 types of yoga and it is imperative to choose one which does not cause any harm and is safe and appropriate for the person’s health. Yoga classes for people with COPD offer a modified form of yoga, keeping in mind the health needs of people with COPD. 

According to a Research by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, it was proved that after just one yoga practice the concentration of oxygen in the blood was improved in COPD patients. Along with that, it helped to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression as well.

5. Tai chi:

Tai chi is a form of ancient Chinese art that has been practiced for thousands of years. This art puts special emphasis on gentle breathing, stretching, meditation and stretching exercises. A study published reported that Tai chi significantly improved the lung function and living conditions of people inflicted with COPD. It is generally considered to be a safe form of exercises for all practitioners.

The ancient martial art practice of Tai Chi has been shown to have numerous health benefits. It helps to improve flexibility as well as balance in seniors and this practice can also help to improve hearth health and lower blood pressure.

Final Thoughts

These few simple exercises can significantly decrease the mortality rate in COPD patients if practiced daily with zeal and fervor. It is recommended to pair them with medications and therapy to acquire maximal benefit.

As always, this article was meant for informational purposes only. Please consult with your physician in order to properly treat COPD. However, by using these exercises, hopefully you can breathe just a little easier now and forever.