Pursed Lip Breathing

November 12, 2012

Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a simple technique that promotes slow and effective breathing, and helps control shortness of breath associated with asthma, COPD, exercise, acute exacerbations and increased physical activity or exercise.


Pursed lip breathing can help release the trapped air in the lungs and improve the ventilation of the respiratory tract. The process promotes prolonged inhalation and exhalation, thereby slowing the breathing rate and relieving shortness of breath. This will also help improve the efficiency of breathing and cause general relaxation.

This technique can help you during periods of excessive physical activity such as bending, lifting, walking or jogging. It can help patients with arterial hypercapnia, which involves increased carbon dioxide levels in the lungs due to ventilation-perfusion mismatch. Research studies have also indicated that pursed lip breathing can help manage conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and COPD, which cause constriction of respiratory tract and damage of lung tissue. It can also improve your sensitivity to diabetes medications as well.


Pursed lip breathing reduces hyperventilation of the lungs, and causes increased carbon dioxide levels in alveoli. These increased levels dilate the smooth muscles of the airways and improve ventilation-perfusion ratio and oxygen levels in the blood. It can also repair lung damage and lung injury, and promote gradual normalization of breathing in severe cases of respiratory disorders.


Relax your neck and shoulder muscles before starting the process of pursed lip breathing. Your successive steps include:

  • Inhale through your nose from diaphragm for about two seconds while keeping your mouth closed. Do not take a deep breath and count while you breathe.

  • Exhale through puckered lips, while applying very light resistance. This process should last for about 4 seconds. The key is that exhalation should always be about twice as long as the inhalation. Do not blow too hard as hyperventilation may worsen your symptoms.

  • You should also avoid excessive resistance and high-pressure breathing during the procedure. Slow down your breathing gradually during pursed lip breathing.


Many research papers and scientific studies have supported the benefits of pursed lip breathing, especially during acute attacks of breathlessness. The following tips may improve your lip breathing benefits:

  • Sit in a quiet place and focus on your breathing.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Make sure you have access to fresh air and pleasant temperature.

  • Maintain a good posture during breathing.

  • Pregnant women and those undergoing organ transplantation should talk to a doctor before performing pursed lip breathing.


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