The Therapeutic Basis of Breathing Exercises
PAUL A. NELSON, M.D.
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
THE value of breathing exercises has not been sufficiently stressed in the past. Most physicians have not been trained to think in terms of prescription of therapeutic exercise as they have in prescription of drugs or in indications for operative procedures. However, with the introduction of courses of physical medicine and rehabilitation into the curricula of many medical schools, encouraging progress is being made in giving younger physicians a basic understanding of therapeutic exercise. It is hoped that with this new emphasis, greater use will be made by all physicians of such simple yet beneficial procedures as breathing exercises in conditions where they are indicated.
Three conditions in which breathing exercises have proved to be of definite value will be discussed. Special consideration will be given to the pathologic physiology present in each instance, particularly in so far as it affects respiration, and to the therapeutic objectives of breathing exercises. The exercises themselves will be outlined briefly in the form that has been found most practical for instruction of patients.
Physiology of Normal Respiration. Since the rationale for breathing exercises is based upon physiologic principles, a brief discussion of the physiology of normal respiration is warranted. Respiration in a strictly physiologic sense is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between living cells and their environment. However, the term respiration usually refers to the movements of inspiration and expiration which provide an intermittent flow of air through the lungs sufficient for the exchange of the respiratory gases.
In quiet respiration, . . .