Breathing Pattern Disorder

Breathing Pattern DisorderHave you noticed that you’re short of breath? Or perhaps sighing or yawning a lot? These are common symptoms of a Breathing Pattern Disorder (BPD). BPD is an umbrella term that describes inappropriate breathing with no apparent cause, which is persistent enough to cause symptoms. A relatively common diagnosis under this umbrella, is Hyperventilation Syndrome.


Ideally, at rest, we breathe in and out through our nose 10-14 times per minute. This breath should be low in the belly, be smooth and slow on the inhale (about 4 seconds), and have a slightly longer exhale (6 seconds). This pattern can be altered for a myriad of reasons, such as illness, pain, stress, and anxiety. If this altered pattern continues long enough, then the breathing dysfunction can become an entity in and of itself. This altered breathing pattern can negatively impact our nervous system, pain levels, biochemistry, digestion, emotional state, and muscle tension.

Curious to see if you have a Breathing Pattern Disorder? This sniff test is another good screening tool to see if you potentially have an altered breathing pattern.


What can you do about Breathing Pattern Disorders?

Here are a few breathing exercises to try:

Relaxed Diaphragmatic Breathing

Lie on your back with a pillow/support under your knees. Place one hand on your chest and one had on your abdomen. Gently, breath in through your nose, low into your belly, for the count of 4 second. Slowly exhale to the count of 6 seconds. Without forcing, your hand on your belly should rise as you breath in, and lower as you breath out.

Need more? Add a small weight on your stomach to encourage your breath lower. The weight should rise with inhalation and lower with exhalation.

Pursed Lip Breathing

With BPD we can often breath stack, which is when we take another breath before we fully exhale. This pattern can lead to hyperinflation with trapped air in the lungs. This technique helps keep our airways open a bit longer, to help remove that trapped air. To practice this, inhale low into the belly/pelvis and as you exhale, purse your lips (as if you are blowing out through a straw).

Apical Deactivation

Often with BPD we breathe shallowly and overuse our secondary breathing muscles (chest and neck muscles). This technique helps to deactivate the upper chest and improve deeper/lower breathing. Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees. Use your hands on your upper chest and apply a gentle pressure towards your feet during your inhale and exhale. Try to breathe low and slow, at a count of 4 seconds in and 6 seconds out.


If you are still having trouble with getting your breathing into a comfortable, easy pattern, reach out to Christine for one-on-one treatments or to participate in her group breathing classes.



*Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash


Christine Campbell, Physiotherapist

Christine Campbell is an experienced physiotherapist and an indispensable member of the Kingston Integrated Healthcare team since 2016. She provides quality one-on-one, hands-on physiotherapy care that improves overall function by addressing underlying causes and movement problems.


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