Pursed-lip breathing

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Pursed-lip breathing (PLB) is a breathing technique that consists of exhaling through tightly pressed (pursed) lips and inhaling through the nose with the mouth closed.


Pursed-lip breathing can help to ease shortness of breath in people with a variety of lung problems. It can be used effectively during asthma attacks to slow breathing and reduce the work of breathing.[1]

Physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and respiratory therapists teach this technique to their patients to ease shortness of breath and to promote deep breathing, also referred to as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. The purpose of PLB is to create back-pressure inside airways to splint them open; moving air thus takes less work.[2]

Breathing through pursed lips on both exhalation and inhalation is one of the signs that health workers use to detect possible chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in patients. COPD Canada suggests that using PLB has positive effects in treating stress- and anxiety-related disorders.[3]

Mechanism of action[edit]

Pursed-lip breathing increases positive pressure generated in the conducting branches of the lungs.[4] This can hold open bronchioles in patients with high lung compliance, such as those with emphysema.[4]

Pursed-lip breathing also accesses the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress during episodes of shortness of breath.[5]


  1. ^ "Breathing Techniques". COPD Foundation.
  2. ^ Nield, Margaret A.; Soo Hoo, Guy W.; Roper, Janice M.; Santiago, Silverio (July 2007). "Efficacy of Pursed-Lips Breathing". Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention. 27 (4): 237–244. doi:10.1097/01.HCR.0000281770.82652.cb. ISSN 1932-7501.
  3. ^ "Anxiety and pursed lip breathing - 404". COPD Canada. Archived from the original on 2017-12-04. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  4. ^ a b Malone, Daniel J.; Adler, Joseph (2004-01-01), Irwin, Scot; Tecklin, Jan Stephen (eds.), "Chapter 15 - The Patient with Respiratory Failure—Preferred Practice Pattern 6F", Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy (Fourth Edition), Saint Louis: Mosby, pp. 372–399, ISBN 978-0-323-01840-1, retrieved 2021-01-31
  5. ^ Fredrickson, Kim. "Pursed Lip Breathing Helps Reduce Anxiety in Pulmonary Fibrosis Patients". Retrieved 2021-01-31.