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Vol. 40 No. 5, September/Ocober 2003, Supplement 2
Pages 25 — 34


Controlled breathing and dyspnea in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Rik Gosselink, PT, PhD
Respiratory Rehabilitation and Respiratory Division, Muscle Research Unit, Laboratory of Pneumology, Faculty
of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
Abstract — Controlled breathing is included in the rehabilitation program of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This article discusses the efficacy of controlled breathing aimed at improving dyspnea. In patients with COPD, controlled breathing works to relieve dyspnea by (1) reducing dynamic hyperinflation of the rib cage and improving gas exchange, (2) increasing strength and endurance of the respiratory muscles, and (3) optimizing the pattern of thoraco-abdominal motion. Evidence of the effectiveness of controlled breathing on dyspnea is given for pursed-lips breathing, forward leaning position, and inspiratory muscle training. All interventions require careful patient selection, proper and repeated instruction, and control of the techniques and assessment of its effects. Despite the proven effectiveness of controlled breathing, several problems still need to be solved. The limited evidence of the successful transfer of controlled breathing from resting conditions to exercise conditions raises several questions: Should patients practice controlled breathing more in their daily activities? Does controlled breathing really complement the functional adaptations that patients with COPD must make? These questions need to be addressed in further research.
Key words: breathing exercises, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), controlled breathing, dyspnea, inspiratory muscle training, physiotherapy.

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