Paul Brice is an exercise specialist from Norfolk who has been helping people with COPD to breathe more easily for 10 years. He is passionate about using exercise to promote health and has just published a book of his innovative breathing techniques.
Paul explains. The book was written as so many of my patients were amazed that they could actually help themselves breathe better so simply, and regularly asked, “why haven’t I been shown this before?”
Nearly all of my COPD patients turn up on their first appointment, and slump into the chair in front of me wheezing and rasping, forcibly sucking air in as if each breath were their last. It seemed obvious to me that before we started challenging them with exercise we had to help them use their lungs as effectively as they could. I felt it unethical to rush these people straight into exercise when I knew there was an easier, more comfortable way. I set out to design a programme for the COPD lung, and named it ‘The Brice Method’.
To start, I teach my patients how their lungs should work almost none have any idea that their lungs take up most of the space inside their rib cage. I show them that, when the rib cage expands and the diaphragm pulls down on to the abdomen, air is automatically drawn into the lungs, and when the rib cage contracts and the diaphragm relaxes, the air is pushed out of the lung. Nature intended this to be a relatively gentle process, and that even when they have damage to their lungs they still have potential space remaining.
I demonstrate how poor posture can contribute to breathlessness. The head and shoulders slump forwards and push down on to the ribcage, and the diaphragm becomes trapped on top of the belly making it hard, if not impossible for the lungs to expand. Over time most people with COPD become less active and this slumped posture becomes normal for the body. The lungs learn to cope with a shallow and fast breathing pattern. This pattern is ok at rest, but not when any physical activity increases the demand for oxygen. Breathlessness ensues.
I get patients to sit and stand tall, to open their chest and let them feel how air is drawn into the lungs without almost effortlessly. De-slumping, plays an essential role in lifting the ribcage and diaphragm off the belly, opening the airways and making breathing more relaxed. I take time to explain exactly how this process works; helping patients remember what good breathing feels like.
Only when patients have learned to open their chest and lungs without fuss or stress, do I introduce them to exercise. I give patients homework, which involve between 2 and 3 minutes of simple exercises to be done 4 times a day. Changing the bad habits of a lifetime takes regular and consistent practice!
The exercises initially focus on coordinating breathing with arm movements, before moving on to leg movements. They progress to gentle strengthening exercises, and finally on to rhythmic progressively longer exercise. All the time the focus is on keeping the chest as open as possible to allow air to draw naturally into the lungs.
Patients are advised to avoid the signs of stress as any tension in the body can lead to panic breathing, where anxiety speeds up the breath, and causes the body to revert back to a slumped position.
The Book COPD Innovative Breathing Techniques, is published by www.hammersmithbooks.co.uk RRP: £15.99 and Ebook £5.99, and is available from most online bookstores.
Discover more about the Brice Method by following the website link, https://paulbrice.net/the-brice-method.Last modified: June 10, 2021