Dysfunctional breathing: what are the symptoms of incorrect breathing?

Dysfunctional breathing: what are the symptoms of incorrect breathing?

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Dysfunctional breathing: what are the symptoms of incorrect breathing?


Complaints due to incorrect or dysfunctional breathing are very diverse and difficult to recognize. Typical are chest and irregular breathing and excessive sighing. The cause is often wrongly sought in heart or lung problems due to the overlapping symptoms. To effectively treat breathing problems, you need to look at the underlying cause.

Read also: What are the symptoms of hyperventilation and what can you do?

Read also: Better breathing is better health

What are the symptoms of incorrect breathing?

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Dysfunctional breathing gives a whole range of possible complaints that can occur both during exercise and at rest. Sometimes they appear suddenly, but they can also evolve gradually.

Common symptoms are:

Read also: Chest pain: when to think of angina (angina pectoris) or myocardial infarction?

What is the cause?

There is not always a clear reason for incorrect breathing. There appear to be some triggers that occur frequently:
  • Psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety
  • An acute illness, for example a chest infection or pneumonia
  • A chronic respiratory disease, for example COPD, asthma
  • A trauma, physical or emotional
  • Pain, especially in the abdomen or lower back
  • Digestive problems such as reflux or diaphragmatic hernia

Read also: Breathing exercise against stress

How can you fix wrong breathing?

  • Identify your triggers and address them. This can mean learning how to deal with anxiety, but also, for example, treating reflux or tackling back pain and shoulder pain.
  • Learn breathing techniques, such as abdominal breathing. For breathing exercises you can go to a physiotherapist or respiratory therapist.
  • Integrate relaxation techniques and mindfulness into your daily routines. This way you reduce the tension in your body and you will also be less inclined to breathe through your chest.
  • You can also improve dysfunctional breathing with nutrition. Strong fluctuations in your blood sugar levels can make the symptoms worse. So keep your blood sugar stable by regularly eating smaller, healthy meals with enough protein. Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.
  • While the symptoms of dysfunctional breathing can be exhausting, it’s important to stay active. This helps you to breathe more efficiently, your physical condition will improve and you will also feel better mentally.

Read also: Breathing correctly: heart coherence as an answer to stress, burnout and hyperventilation


Last updated: February 2023

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