Chronic coughing and emphysema

Chronic coughing

Coughing may feel like the right way to clear stubborn phlegm and mucus, but in fact it may make the situation worse.

Chronic coughing is harsh on the delicate tissues of your airways and lungs. When we cough, we breathe very deeply, drawing in large amounts of unfiltered air, irritating and dehydrating the mucous membranes lining the airways. This can lead to swelling and inflammation. Mucus production increases. Chronic coughing dries out the mucus, making it sticky and harder to dislodge. The huge loss of carbon dioxide coughing involves may cause constriction in the airway as the smooth muscle goes into spasm.

Emphysema, COPD

A diagnosis of emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD- airway inflammation, chronic bronchitis and emphysema) indicates that damage has occurred to the wall of the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs. A diminished surface area remains for the function of gas exchange. Breathing is now less efficient. Even mild exertion can bring on breathlessness or a coughing fit and exacerbate the condition.

Relief through breathing retraining

The breathing retraining approach to conditions like chronic irritable cough, bronchitis, bronchiectasis and emphysema/COPD is to teach control of breathing and to normalise the rate and volume of breathing. You learn to breathe more gently. This reduces airway irritation, mucus and inflammation, and your cough should settle.

With emphysema, stamina increases through improved breathing efficiency, maximising oxygen exchange. Key to the success is how we help our clients control their breathing during everyday activities like getting in and out of the car and coping with stairs. It is often quite a surprise for a person with COPD to discover that improvement is possible after having resigned themselves to slow, irreversible deterioration.

Madeline, a museum guide, used to cough constantly throughout her tours. All the talking she had to do made it worse. Her cough stopped as soon as she started the breathing course. She no longer got exhausted from talking all day, did not have to clear mucous from her throat and did not get dehydrated like she used to.[Case study]

Getting help

Breathing consultations in Canberra

Breathing courses in Canberra

Breathing workshops (half-day) – more information soon

Book and CD on breathing retraining

Book * – Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea: A step-by-step guide to restful sleep and better health through changing the way you breathe. Tess Graham (Penguin 2012)
CD – Breathing Exercise Instruction CD  – a companion product to the book.

* While the book is specifically written for people with sleep-breathing issues, the information, strategies and step-by-step breathing training program in the book is helpful for breathing generally.


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