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Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic

The Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing

The Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing

For people with lung disease who struggle with breathlessness, pursed lip breathing can be a simple and effective way to regain control over your breathing.


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Breathing difficulty is a common symptom for people with chronic lung diseases such as PF. But there are breathing techniques that can alleviate shortness of breath and help you to relax. 

Below is a description of pursed lip breathing and how you can benefit from it by the Cleveland Clinic.* Also included is a very brief instructional video by National Jewish Health.**

What is pursed lip breathing?

“Pursed lip breathing is one of the simplest ways to control shortness of breath. It provides a quick and easy way to slow your pace of breathing, making each breath more effective.” 

Pursed lip breathing involves the following steps:

  1. With your mouth closed, inhale slowly through the nose for a count of two (inhale, one, two). This should be a normal breath.
  2. Exhale slowly through pursed (puckered) lips, as if you are about to whistle or “gently flicker the flame of a candle,” while counting to four (exhale, one, two, three, four).

It helps to relax the muscles of the neck and shoulders while performing pursed lip breathing. While the technique has traditionally been used in patients with COPD, breathing techniques can help patients with other lung diseases such as PF.

Benefits of pursed lip breathing

  • Pursed lip breathing improves ventilation by allowing removal of trapped air in the lungs.
  • By helping remove old air out of the lungs, breathing patterns are improved.
  • The lung’s airways stay open longer, reducing breathing effort.
  • Breathing rate is reduced by taking longer to breathe out.
  • Pursed lip breathing helps to relieve breathlessness and bring about relaxation.

When to do it

The Cleveland Clinic recommends employing pursed lip breathing whenever you are about to engage in more strenuous activities: bending, lifting, or climbing stairs. 

Cleveland Clinic staff advises practicing this breathing method 4-5 times a day to achieve the correct breathing pattern. This method will become natural over time, they emphasize.

Reminders

  • Do not forcibly blow out air.
  • Always take more time exhaling than inhaling.
  • “Breathe slowly, easily, and relaxed…in and out…until you are in complete control.”

*Cleveland Clinic. (2018, September 14). Pursed Lip Breathing. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9443-pursed-lip-breathing

**National Jewish Health. (2014, May 27). Pursed Lip Breathing [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqIPW474azk

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