On his patient education blog, Pulmonary Fibrosis M.D., Dr. Jeremy Feldman addresses common IPF-related questions and concerns, with useful insights from respiratory therapist MaryAnn DePietro, BS, CRT.*
Often in pulmonary fibrosis, patients begin having trouble breathing during exertion and even usual activity. As it becomes difficult for the lungs to function due to scar formation in the air sacs, less oxygen is absorbed and distributed throughout the body. This leads to anxiety and a vicious cycle of avoiding activities that leave one breathless, which leads to muscle deconditioning and further breathlessness (dyspnea).
Feldman and DePietro recommend four ways to conserve energy for the activities you most enjoy, decrease anxiety and improve your breathing.
1. Delegate. It is reasonable to delegate low-priority tasks you dislike and that leave you breathless (perhaps lawn mowing), which allows time and energy for more enjoyable pursuits.
2. Go at Your Own Speed. To avoid breathlessness doing what you like, pacing yourself can be an important skill, as in learning to divide an activity into manageable steps or taking scheduled breaks. Taking cues from your body is advised, sitting and resting at the first sign of breathlessness so you can finish without undue discomfort. In other words, not allowing breathlessness to control you.
3. Foresight. We all tend to try to accomplish too much in one day, which can be especially troublesome in PF. Planning tasks when you are most energetic and scheduling rest times is suggested.
4. Technique. A bonus, helpful breathing techniques to prevent or ease breathlessness are described.
5. Pursed Lip Breathing can be helpful for both COPD and PF patients to slow breathing and promote relaxation. To perform, inhale over two seconds through the nose; exhale slowly for about four seconds through pursed lips, as if blowing out candles.
5. Diaphragmatic (“Belly”) Breathing involves the diaphragm by breathing deeply through the belly. Place one hand on the stomach and the other on the chest, slowly inhaling through the nose. You should feel the stomach move in and out more than the chest.
Find the article at Pulmonary Fibrosis M.D.
*Feldman, J. (2017, July 24). Easing Shortness of Breath in Pulmonary Fibrosis. Pulmonary Fibrosis M.D.
(The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has not reviewed this article for accuracy.)