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Positioning to help with Breathlessness

What do to if you feel shortness of breath

Mirella Veras, Physiotherapist, PhD

Shortness of breath or dyspnea is described as sensations that suggest your respiratory system is not functioning well. You can feel an intense tightening in the chest, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation.

Some respiratory physiotherapy tips to help you to feel better are:

1. You should sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and leaning forward with your elbows resting on your knees. Relax your arms on your thighs.


2. Sitting and leaning forward at a table

You should sit leaning forward with your elbows resting on a table.


3. You can also sit at a table, lean forward with your chest and head supported with a few pillows or cushions.


4.Sitting Upright

Sitting upright increases peak ventilation and reduces airway obstruction.

Sit upright against the back of a firm chair. Rest your arms on the chair arms or on your thighs.

Have your legs apart and relax your arms on your thighs.


5. Standing leaning forward

Stand near a table or wall, lean forward. You can use any piece of furniture that is below the height of your shoulder.

Rest your elbows or hands on the piece of furniture, keeping your neck and shoulder relaxed.


6. High side lying

Lie on your side, with a few pillows under your head and shoulders (or you can also use a foam wedge pillow if you have one).

To be safe you can put a pillow between your waist and armpit to prevent you from sliding down the bed. Also, resting your upper arm on a pillow helps to relax the breathing accessory muscles and arm.

Make sure the top pillow supports your head and neck.

Your knees and hips should be slightly bent and you can use pillow between your knees to make you more comfortable.

If you continue feeling short of breath, call for medical assistance.

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