Treatment and self-help
Things you can do to help yourself
The techniques below are useful to help you to get control over your breathing. If your symptoms persist you should seek a medical opinion. Gaining control over your breathing can be difficult and you may need the assistance of a Chartered Physiotherapist. For details of a Chartered Physiotherapist who treats hyperventilation and breathing pattern disorders near you go to the contacts page.
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Breathing slowly and rhythmically through the nose using the lower part of your chest. This will encourage you to use your diaphragm (the body's main breathing muscle). Also try and make the size of the breath smaller. Aim for smooth gentle rhythmical and slow breathing pattern. You should practice breathing in this way everyday in a comfortable position and a relaxed environment. Initially you may find the exercises difficult. Persevere.
Once you can do these breathing exercises when you are relaxed, try and use this breathing pattern when you feel you are losing control over your breathing.
If you feel you cannot gain control over your breathing; in an emergency, breathe in and out with your hands cupped over your mouth and nose.
For details of how to order a video or cd to help with breathing retraining please go to the educational material page.
Speaking quickly and taking large gasps between long sentences can make your breathing worse. Try and slow down your speech, pausing and taking a small breath after each sentence.
Sighing/yawning/irritable cough/clearing your throat
Avoid sighing, yawning and clearing your throat. Swallowing can often help if you find it difficult to stop a sigh, yawn or irritable cough, but try to avoid swallowing any air.
Taking time to relax can be a very effective way to gain control of your breathing. There are many relaxation tapes and exercises available on the market. However, when you use tapes or exercise programmes ensure that you do not follow instructions to take deep breaths, as this may make your breathing worse.
Try and take regular balanced meals. If you tend to snack avoid foods high in carbohydrate such as chocolate bars or crisps as they make your sugar levels rise then fall rapidly. This can act as a trigger to make you over breathe.
Avoid drinks that contain stimulants such as caffeine as these can also trigger your body to over breathe. Tea, coffee and cola are all drinks that are high in caffeine. Try decaffeinated alternatives instead.
Maintaining a good posture is essential to a good breathing pattern. If you are hunched or slouched there is not enough room for your diaphragm to move freely. Sitting and standing up straight will enable you to use your diaphragm and thus breath more effectively. If you are not used to sitting or standing straight this can be tiring. Exercise methods such as; Pilates, Yoga, Alexander Technique and Tai Chi are all good at encouraging good posture and are also a good way to relax.
Techniques that may be useful include; aromatherapy, acupuncture, reiki, osteopathy and reflexology.