If you have a breathing condition such as asthma, COPD, heart problems or cystic fibrosis (CF) then you know how difficult some days can be. When you’re struggling to do what everyone else takes for granted the days and nights can seem very long and the jobs we have to get on with can seem much harder.
Following a healthy lifestyle, taking meds regularly and having a good technique with inhalers are the cornerstones of good self management for a breathing condition. But one of the most overlooked aspects of respiratory problems is the breathing itself.
Breathing for people with breathing problems.
Some asthma sufferers have found that Buteyko breathing exercises have helped them enormously. Another method of improving breathing for anyone with shortness of breath is to strengthen the breathing muscles themselves.
The breathing muscles are principally the intercostals muscles – between the ribs – and the diaphragm which is a sheet of muscle lying at the base of the chest cavity. It contracts and pulls down as the intercostals muscles contract and lift the ribs up and outward, and this creates the in-breath.
Some years ago Professor Alison McConnell, a research scientist at Brunel University, asked her team why it was that older people got so much more out of breath than younger people. And if we ‘trained’ the lungs of older people to breathe better, would that make a difference?
The answer was ‘yes it would’ and the POWERbreathe was born.
What is POWERbreathe?
Many years ago one of my own patients came to clinic and said that he’d had more success in improving his lung condition (COPD) with the POWERbreathe he’d bought than he had with any of his prescribed inhalers. That was enough to make me sit up and take notice of something that’s drug-free and could benefit anyone with a breathing problem.
The POWERbreathe manufacturers describe it as ‘dumbbells for the lungs’. Athletes and fitness fans work hard to improve their muscles’ strength and endurance. Using inspiratory muscle exercises anyone can strengthen their respiratory muscles and find an improvement in their fitness performance and general wellbeing.
POWERbreathe works when you breathe in against a resistance. There is a dial at the base of the hand grip that lets you increase or decrease the resistance you breathe against. By increasing it gradually over time your breathing muscles become fitter and stronger and you find that you are less breathless.
Will POWERbreathe work for me?
There are some conditions where this device shouldn’t be used. You can read about them in our main article about POWERbreathe here.
REMEMBER that this device is not designed to replace any of your prescribed medications. The pathology or disease process won’t change so it’s very important to keep taking them.
The POWERbreathe will help strengthen the breathing muscles and a strong, fit muscle will get fatigued more slowly than a weaker one. One of the reasons that people with breathing conditions get tired is that it takes much more effort for you to breathe and the muscles tire. If you can improve that situation with regular and steady use of the POWERbreathe, life becomes much easier.
This may lead to your meds actually working better and you might, in consultation with your doctor, be able to reduce some of them.
Where can I get POWERbreathe?
In the UK you can ask your doctor for a prescription for the POWERbreathe Medic and it is also available over the counter in larger pharmacies (or can be ordered for you). It’s been available on prescription since 2006 and has gone through rigorous testing and trials before being recommended as a therapy for respiratory patients.
In other countries you can buy the Wellness model direct from the manufacturer or from Amazon (see below). Other outlets are available and may vary.
Read more about the POWERbreathe for breathing conditions here.