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Breathing Exercises for Atelectasis

Breathing exercises for Atelectasis

The collapse of a lung or lung lobe, whether complete or partial, is known as atelectasis. It occurs when the alveoli, which are the lung’s tiny air sacs, deflate, making it challenging for your blood to carry oxygen to your organs and tissues or even fill them with alveolar fluid.

A collapsed lung is another term for atelectasis. There are some breathing exercises for atelectasis that are useful in reducing the problems associated with it.

Atelectasis is one of the most typical respiratory (breathing) side effects after surgery. Other respiratory conditions like cystic fibrosis,  chest wounds, liquid buildup in the lungs, lung cancer, and respiratory vulnerability may also cause it to manifest as a complication.

Atelectasis may occur if an object is accidentally inhaled resulting in blockage of airways and atelectasis.

Atelectasis can make it difficult to breathe, especially if you already have lung disease. The course of treatment is determined by the cause and extent of the collapse.

Although it rarely poses a life-threatening threat, in some circumstances prompt treatment is required.

Following are breathing exercises used to treat atelectasis, a side effect of various respiratory conditions.

Diaphragmatic breathing

This exercise can aid in the relaxation of your chest wall and abdominal muscles.

  • Lie down or sit in a comfortable chair.
  • Position one or both hands over your stomach.
  • Slowly and deeply inhale through your nose. Your stomach should rise, but your upper chest should remain relaxed and still.
  • Slowly exhale through pursed lips (like blowing out candles). Pull your abdomen slowly and gently towards your spine as you exhale.
  • As you retrain your diaphragm to assist in helping to fill and empty your lungs, be certain to relax your neck and shoulders.
  • Rep 5 times more.
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises for atelectasis
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises for atelectasis

Pursed Lip Breathing

People can regulate their ventilation and oxygenation by using the pursed-lip breathing technique. The technique calls for a slow, controlled exhalation through the mouth while inhaling through the nose [Ref].

By doing this exercise, you take fewer breaths and keep your airways open for a longer time. You can engage in greater physical activity because more air can enter and exit your lungs.

Simply inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth with pursed lips for at least twice as long to practice.

Splinted coughing

When you cough, squeeze a pillow against your abdomen to help your cough become more powerful and less uncomfortable. This is known as splinted coughing.

Anytime you need to cough, including while performing these exercises, you can use splinted coughing.

Shoulder Blade Squeezes

Shoulder blade squeezes can assist you to widen your chest wall and move your ribs, allowing you to take deeper breaths.

  • Lean back in a comfortable chair or your bed.
  • Turn your palms upward while keeping your arms at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades gently downward and back. Your chest should expand as a result.
  • Inhale through your nose, then exhale through your pursed lips (like blowing out candles).
  • Take a moment to unwind, then repeat five times.

Overhead Chest Stretch Breathing Exercise for Atelectasis

The overhead chest stretch is a useful exercise for relaxing your chest muscles and facilitating airflow into and out of your lungs. Your body’s overall oxygen level will rise as a result of this.

  • Lean back in bed or a chair that is comfortable.
  • Gently pull your shoulder blades down and back.
  • Take a deep breath in while slowly raising your hands as high as is comfortable over your head while holding your hands together.
  • As you exhale, gradually bring your hands back down.
  • Lie back for one to two seconds, then do it five more times [Ref].


Overhead Chest Stretch Breathing Exercise for Atelectasis
Overhead Chest Stretch Breathing Exercise for Atelectasis

Deep Breathing Exercises (Incentive spirometry) for Atelectasis

The incentive spirometer is a simple, plastic metallic device that keeps your lungs inflated, strengthens them, and helps you clear mucus and other secretions from your chest and lungs to prevent lung infections.

An incentive spirometer, when used regularly, helps your lungs expand, allowing you to take deep, full breaths rather than short, shallow ones.

An incentive spirometer should be used as follows:

  • Place yourself at the edge of your bed if at all possible. If you can’t, raise your position in bed.
  • Ensure that the incentive spirometer is held upright.
  • Put the mouthpiece inside your mouth and close your lips tightly.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply as you can. A yellow piston will be seen rising toward the column’s top. The yellow piston ought to arrive at the region highlighted in blue.
  • Hold your breath for at least five seconds or as long as you can. As you exhale, let the piston slowly sag to the base of the column.
  • After taking a brief break, repeat the first five steps at least ten times for each hour that you are awake.
  • Put your incentive spirometer’s yellow indicator on the side to show off your best breath. With each deep, slow breath, aim to get closer to the indicator.
  • Cough vigorously to clear your lungs after each round of 10 deep breaths. When coughing, firmly press a pillow or towel that has been rolled up against any surgical incisions you may have.
  • Once you can safely get out of bed, go for regular short walks and work on your coughing. Unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider, you can typically stop using the incentive spirometer once you can move around.

If you feel dizzy or lightheaded while using an incentive spirometer, stop using it immediately and notify your healthcare provider.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

A type of positive airway pressure called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is used to maintain a specific airway pressure throughout the respiratory cycle, which includes both inspiration and expiration.

By using CPAP, you can maintain positive end respiratory pressure (PEEP), lessen atelectasis, increase the alveolar surface area, and improve oxygenation [Ref].

Some patients who are too weak to cough and have hypoxemia (low oxygen levels) after surgery may benefit from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

CPAP works in a certain way

  • A CPAP machine’s motor (compressor) generates a consistent stream of pressurized air that travels through an air purifier and into a flexible tube. Clean air is pushed through this tube into a mask that covers your mouth or nose.
  • While you sleep, the airstream from the CPAP machine pushes against any blockages in your air passages, clearing them so your lungs can receive plenty of oxygen.
  • Since nothing is obstructing this oxygen flow, your breathing doesn’t become slower. That way, you won’t have to repeatedly wake up and start breathing.

Benefits of Breathing Exercises for Atelectasis

All these above-mentioned breathing exercises are remarkably fruitful in reducing the collapsed area of the lungs.

Moreover, it results in smooth and comfortable breathing which was missing when the lungs almost totally collapsed.

What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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