The goal of breathing treatments is to maintain and/or improve lung function, increase mucociliary clearance, improve quality of life and improve overall breathing. Breathing treatments often last 20-30 minutes per treatment and 1-3 times per day, depending on who the person is. This takes time out of an individual’s day and adds up over the week. Well, what if we could boost how much you get out of these treatments? What if we could help you improve your next treatment? We can’t guarantee anything, however; we have put together 3 strategies that we have given to our pulmonary clients that have helped them improve their approach to their treatments.
Treatment goals are to help you improve your ability to breathe, right? Well, let’s look at how we can help you target that and possibly improve your quality of life and breathing mechanics.
Number 1: Posture
Your posture directly affects your breathing mechanics. The human body is a fascinating organism. Our bodies are built to do amazing things however, when our body does the same thing over and over again it adapts and can alter our posture. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re are training for a particular goal however, it can directly affect your breathing mechanics if you do not allow your brain to enrich its self with other postures. For example, when you sit at work all day your muscles will adapt to the seated position at which you maintain. That is why it has been recommended to stand up and walk around for a minute every hour when you have a job that is highly sedentary. In the seated position, your hip, neck, and lower back muscles will tighten. These muscles are highly utilized in respiration. When they live in a prolong state of shortening, the brain will tell other muscles to lengthen; hamstrings, glutes, pelvic floor and core muscles, to balance out the adapted seated posture.
This causes imbalances throughout the body and changes your breathing mechanics without you even realizing it. The sitting will cause your head to subtly shift forward, your ribcage to flare up and recruit your lower back, while your neck and chest muscles help low intensity breathing to keep occurring. These muscles are primarily used when we have a higher elevated breathing pattern, so when they are recruited for other jobs, they will become tired and overworked, which causes more tension and stress. Our body’s number one goal is to survive and if we limit its ability to breathe efficiently, it will compensate and use other muscles, such as the neck, chest and lower back muscles to drive your respiration. This can carry over to your breathing treatments and you may not even realize it.
Here is a posture strategy for your next treatment:
Sit up right, with your ribcage subtly tucked down and your knees at a 90-degree angle under a 2-inch block. Sit in this position for as long as you feel comfortable throughout your treatment.
If you have something to squeeze, place it between your knees and subtly squeeze to increase core activation.
Number 2: Hydration
The adult human body is made up of over 60% of water. The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are comprised of about 83% water, and our muscles are comprised of around 79% of water. Now if we are dehydrated, our brain isn’t going to be as efficient at operating and at sending signals to the lungs and muscles for respiration. This could then change our physiological chemistry, making it more difficult to breathe. When something becomes more difficult to accomplish, there is an added stress that is placed upon it to survive.
This could decrease our energy levels and make us have to work even harder to breathe, all just because we are dehydrated. We always recommend drinking water throughout the day, from the moment you get up, to 30 minutes before you go to bed. Try having a glass of water 30 minutes before your next treatment. It could help hydrate your brain, lungs, and muscles and keeping your organs hydrated allows them to function at a higher output.
Number 3: Warm Up
When we exercise, we have been taught to perform a 5-10 minute warm up before our workout of the day. The goal of these warm ups is intended to help improve blood flow to our muscles,increase our tissue extensibility, and get our respiration on par for what we are about to accomplish. This same idea and concept can be used for your next treatment. Think of your breathing treatment as if it was your exercise workout for the day. When you breathe in and out, some of your muscles have to contract and shorten, while others have to relax and lengthen. When these muscles haven’t been properly warmed up, they may not contract or relax like they would if they were warm. Now, if you perform a couple of your favorite upper and lower body exercises before your treatment, you could put your muscles in a better position to contract and relax to improve your breathing during your treatment. Picking exercises that focus on breathing and muscle tissue stretching are always the best bet. Your muscles connect to your bones and your ribcage is a big component in getting air into the lungs. If you focus on warming up the muscles around your upper body and ribcage, you can get higher quality of ribcage expansion, increasing oxygen consumption and utilization.
We have a great library of exercises and mini warm up routines you can use before your next treatment. Go to our YouTube channel, Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institute, for more options.
Just remember that everyone is different and will need to approach these strategies differently. These are tips that we have seen help our clients fighting a pulmonary disease. You do not have to use them all to be successful. The biggest thing is keeping it consistent. It is better to focus on one tip for a few weeks and see how it goes for you before you move on to the next one. We cannot guarantee instant improvements after your next treatment, but if you apply at least one of these strategies with consistency, we believe it could help you improve your treatments and quality of life overtime.