Discharge Instructions: Diaphragmatic (Controlled) Breathing

When you have lung problems, you may find it harder to take deep breaths. Learning to use controlled breathing can help you get more air into and out of your lungs, which will help you with shortness of breath. Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing helps you breathe with your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large muscle that plays an important part in breathing. It is located below your lungs. It separates your chest from your abdomen (belly).

Home care

Follow these steps to use controlled breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair or lie on your back with a pillow under your head with your knees bent.

  • Relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders.

  • Place one hand on your abdomen; place the other hand on your upper chest.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose as deeply as you can. Count to 2. As you inhale, your abdomen should move out against your hand. Your chest should stay still.

  • Breathe out slowly with your lips together (called pursed lips) to the count of 4. You should feel your stomach muscles move in.

  • Repeat the above steps until you feel relaxed or are no longer feeling short of breath.

Man sitting in a chair

Man inhaling through his nose to the count of 2

Man exhaling through pursed lips to the count of 4

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical care

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath that is not relieved by controlled breathing exercises or by your medication

  • Wheezing or coughing

  • Increased mucus

  • Yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever or chills

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with your normal medications

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Swollen ankles

  • Trouble doing your usual activities