Can breathing exercises help me cope with my asbestosis?

Posted: 25th Feb 15 1:30 PM

Various breathing techniques can help a person control their respiratory rate and breathing pattern, which can be useful to some asbestosis sufferers when coping with their symptoms.

Asbestosis can cause shortness of breath and affects the efficiency of the lungs. It occurs in individuals who have had exposure to high levels of asbestos over many years. The asbestos fibres permanently damage the alveoli (air sacks which supply oxygen to the bloodstream) in the lungs, which can make it more difficult to breathe.

Breathing techniques and correct posture can improve the function of the respiratory muscles and the effectiveness of coughs. Daily breathing exercises can ease shortness of breath, help the lungs work more efficiently and make a person feel like enough air is getting into their lungs.

It is best to take expert medical opinion before starting any form of breathing exercises and often patients will be referred to pulmonary rehabilitation experts through their treatment consultant. Some examples of breathing exercise techniques that may help include:

Pursed-lip breathing:

Pursed-lip breathing will slow down your breathing so that it is more efficient (breathing fast only makes shortness of breath worse). You can do this kind of breathing anywhere.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold your breath for 3 seconds.
  • Purse your lips as if you are going to whistle.
  • Breathe out slowly through your pursed lips for 6 seconds.

Expansion of the lower chest:

The aim of this technique is to allow the fresh air into the lungs and get rid of the old air. Try to imagine that you are breathing out for twice as long as you breathe in. This will make room for the fresh air and also helps to slow down the speed of your breathing.

  • Try to keep the shoulders and the upper chest relaxed and easy.
  • Feel as if the air is going down to your stomach and imagine that the breathing is taking place there.
  • Place your hands on either side of your chest.
  • Breathe out through your mouth, letting your ribs sink in as far as possible.
  • Then, breathing in through your nose or mouth, feel your ribs expand outwards towards your hands.
  • Gently breathe out to start again.
  • Try to repeat the exercise about five or six times.

Abdominal/diaphragm breathing:

Abdominal breathing also slows down your breathing and helps relax your entire body.

  • Lie on your back in a comfortable position with a pillow under your head and knees.
  • Rest one hand on your abdomen just below your rib cage. Rest the other hand on your chest.
  • Slowly breathe in and out through your nose using your abdominal muscles. The hand resting on your abdomen will rise when you breathe in and fall when you breathe out. The hand on your chest should be almost still.
  • Repeat three or four times before resting.

For extra reading, click on the links below:

Macmillan Cancer Support – Breathing more easily

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – Breathing excercises