Long COVID: Positioning for Breathlessness

Positioning for Breathlessness

People with long COVID may have trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or breathlessness. Like other conditions that affect breathing, certain body positions can be beneficial in easing difficulty breathing. 

You may find that you naturally assume one of these positions if you’re short of breath. It often happens in those with breathing problems. That is because the positions improve breathing function - they change the way your lungs, diaphragm, other breathing muscles, etc. work together,  making it easier to breathe.

There are two sitting and two standing positions - with some variations. They can help relieve your shortness of breath. You will stop what you’re doing and get into one of the positions.

There is also an effective position for lying down to rest or sleep. It helps to relieve or prevent trouble breathing that can occur when lying flat.

Important Points

  • Once you’re positioned, it also helps to use the pursed-lip breathing technique (Your program includes an audio recording of the technique).

  • With pursed-lip breathing, your lips are positioned as if you are gently blowing out a candle flame. You’ll take slow, easy breaths in through your nose and longer breaths out through your mouth.

  • Try the positions to see which work best and are most comfortable for you.

  • If you’re using one position, and it isn’t providing relief, try one of the others.

Contact your coach if the positions (and/or breathing methods that we provided), don’t help.

Sitting

Leaning forward helps to lessen difficulty breathing. Leaning on the arms can provide further breathing support. 

Position 1 - Leaning Forward

Sit in a chair and lean forward.  Rest your forearms on your thighs. Relax your wrists and hands.

Position 2 - Leaning Forward At Table

  1. Sit at a table and lean forward. Rest your forearms on the table. Relax your wrists and hands.

  2. Sit at a table and lean forward. Rest your forearms on the table and your head on a pillow.

Standing

The standing position creates more space in the chest, allowing the lungs to expand. These, and other changes, help with breathing.

Position 1 - Leaning Forward

Stand and lean forward resting your forearms on a chair, counter, or another surface.

Position 2 - Leaning Back

Stand and lean your back against a wall. Your feet should be several inches apart and about a foot away from the wall. Relax your arms at your sides.

You can also place your hands or fingers in your pockets, belt loops, waistband, or handbag strap to maintain the position, and support breathing.

Remember, once you are in one of the positions, try to relax and use the pursed-lip breathing technique.

Lying Position

The high side-lying position supports breathing and proper body alignment. You can use this position for rest or sleep.

Lie on your side with your head and neck on several pillows. Use pillows to support your upper arm and knee.