Post COVID-19 care: Here are some exercises and positions to manage breathlessness during recovery from coronavirus infection
The WHO says that a few positions are likely to reduce breathlessness.
The fact that the COVID-19 infection attacks the lungs is very well established by now. A recent study in The Lancet shows how cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in intensive care units across the globe have surged during the pandemic. Understanding respiratory symptoms, treatment and management has thus become a crucial part of COVID-19 care.
If you’ve contracted COVID-19 and are on the way to recovery, feeling breathless continuously is therefore natural. Whether you’ve been discharged from the hospital and are headed home for your recovery period or you had a mild case and had been recommended home quarantine, you’ll still have to monitor your lung health, even once you test negative. Taking account of how breathless you’re feeling is as important as knowing how to deal with it. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently come out with a set of guidelines regarding things COVID-19 patients on the way to recovery can do to relieve breathlessness.
Best positions to manage breathlessness
The WHO says that a few positions are likely to reduce breathlessness. You should give each of them a try and then continue using the ones that best relieve your symptoms.
1. High side-lying: Prop up a number of pillows on the bed and lie on your side with your head placed on the topmost pillow. Your head and neck should be properly supported and your knees should remain bent.
2. Forward lean sitting: Sit on a chair and lean gently and slightly forward to rest your arms on your lap or while resting them on the armrest of the chair. If you have a table in front of you, then you can lean forwards from the waist to rest your head and neck on the table with the help of a pillow or cushion if needed. Your arms should be resting on the table in this case.
3. Forward lean standing: Stand in front of a stable surface, like a windowsill, and lean forward. Your arms should be resting on a stable surface.
4. Backward lean standing: Lean your back against a wall with your arms on your side. Your feet should be slightly apart from each other and placed a foot away from the wall, with your knees bent.
Best exercises to manage breathlessness
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) points out that it’s very important for there to be proper air circulation in the room where you’re staying, and to remember that additional oxygen from a cylinder won’t help you feel any less breathless. There are a few breathing techniques or exercises you can practice to both relax and control your breathing, according to the WHO. Give these a try whenever you feel breathless.
1. Controlled breathing
- Sit in a comfortable position with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Close your eyes (if it helps you relax) or keep them open, and focus on your breathing.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose (or mouth, if that’s easier) and breath out through your mouth.
- Use as little effort as possible and just focus on making your breathing slow, relaxed and smooth.
2. Paced breathing
- This technique is useful when you’re engaging in an activity which makes you more breathless, like walking, climbing stairs, etc. Ensure that you don’t rush at all through these steps or it could add to the breathlessness.
- Break down the activity into smaller parts to make them easier to carry out without feeling excessively breathless.
- Breath in before starting the activity, breathe out while making the effort in the activity, take a break from the activity and repeat.
- You may want to breathe in through the nose and out through your mouth.
For more information, read our article on Caring for a recovered COVID-19 patient.
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