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Breathing & Exercising During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Did you know? Physiotherapists are among the team of medical professionals that can help those recovering from Covid19?As we all know, Covid19 is a respiratory virus that spreads rapidly through transmission of droplets, saliva, and nose discharge.The virus can affect people in different ways, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised. 

How do Physiotherapists come into play?

 Easy! We can educate clients on different breathing techniques and exercises that can allow optimal chest expansion which in turn enhances lung function and oxygen capacity! We are here to describe a few different breathing techniques that can assist with Covid recovery, keeping Lung Function in mind. 

Lateral expansion

Many of us, without actually knowing it, use what we call accessories (muscles that are not trained to do the work of breathing like muscles around the neck and shoulders) to breath or take in deep breaths. You will know you are breathing wrong when you breathe in deeply and see both your shoulders lifting and sometimes along with this, muscles around your neck tense up as well. The reason for this is just due to the lack of proper breathing pattern adopted as we grew up. What you should do to practice lateral expansion is to place both your hands around the sides of your rib cage and feel these areas expand sideways while you take in those deep breaths (without allowing your shoulders to raise). As always, breathe in through your nose and breathe out, slowly, through your mouth where your lips allow only a small amount of air to come out, as in ‘pucker or purse your lips while breathing out’.  

Diaphragmatic breathing

Over here you will lie down on your back. Try and relax so you can focus on the areas you need to expand. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe in deep through your nose. While doing this, the hand on your stomach rises while that on your chest stays still. Breathe out using a pursed lip, slowly. The hand on your stomach should go down. Repeat this 4-5 times, not more. If you feel dizzy you have done it too many times, so stop. You can repeat this cycle once every hour.

Prone position

Lying on your stomach, while breathing rhythmically, can help increase airflow to the lungs! The reason for this is that the back of our lungs have more airways and can result in improved oxygenation . Lying on your stomach while doing deep breathing, once in a while, helps open up those small airways.

Deep Breathing Technique to help overcome Covid related infections: (This is taken from directions of Dr. Munshi at Queens hospital in the UK):

Take 6 deep breaths in. Each time, hold your breath for 5 seconds after breathing in and then exhale. On the 6th breath, inhale and let out a big cough covering your mouth. Repeat the whole cycle twice. Once done you will then lay flat on your stomach with a pillow in front of you, taking slightly deeper breaths for the next 10 minutes.

Dr. Sarfaraz munshi at Queen’s hospital in England posted a video of this technique on YouTube below.

Check out the link for this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwLzAdriec0 

Keep in mind

It is best to perform these techniques at the beginning of infection for greater results. However, you do not have to have Covid to pursue these exercises; they are great for overall lung function and mental health! Stay Safe!

 Gabriela Salazar

Cambridge Physiotherapy & Rehab Center

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