NB: All Breathing works practitioners have excellent clinical reasoning skills and will refer onto the wider medical fraternity should they feel it necessary to ensure excellent outcomes for our clients.

How is the physio treatment of disordered breathing different to asthma treatment?

Addressing breathing pattern is always a key part of our treatment for people with asthma. There are other aspects of our treatment that are also important, for example we will check you know how and when to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. If your asthma is well controlled you won’t need Ventolin/reliever more than three times per week. If you do need it more, we will look at when you are taking it and help you discern when it’s appropriate – and you may need to go back to your GP to review your medication. We will also talk about breathing with exercise and asthma, monitoring your symptoms and peak flow, and discuss an asthma management plan. Doing these things will improve what you can do each day and can help prevent serious asthma attacks.

How is hyperventilation syndrome different to a disordered breathing pattern?

There is some overlap and some differences. We usually use the term “disordered breathing” rather than hyperventilating because often people are holding their breath at some times and breathing fast (hyperventilating) at other times. It’s like a learner driver bunny-hopping rather than just plain speeding. With either there might be musculoskeletal problems altering breathing – a stiff back or locked in abdominals.  The problem might also be specific – for example talking in public or on the phone, or swimming lengths at the local pool.

Will breathing well help me sleep?

Yes, almost always. When we breathe in a gentle, regular rhythm it switches off the fight/flight response and switches on the calming “parasympathetic” response, which then helps you sleep, and improves sleep quality. Sometimes there are other issues affecting your sleep, however, and we would refer you on to the specialist that can help you best.

I suffer from anxiety - should I see you or a psychologist?

We work from the body up, enabling the body to settle and achieve baseline calm. Psychologists work from the mind down, giving you strategies to deal with the thoughts and feeling that are sabotaging you. We can only fully relax when the mind and the body are both feeling safe and calm. Sometimes just one form of treatment is enough, and sometimes it requires both. We may suggest you investigate seeing someone to help with your thought patterns if it seems appropriate. There are a range of professionals who can help with this, including counsellors, psychotherapists, and hypnotherapists to name a few. At times body chemistry may too need balancing - for this the G.P will be included with respect to medication. Regardless, it is essential to be able to calm the body through life’s stormier seas.

How long will it take to feel better?

Most people feel better after the first appointment. Sometimes it takes two appointments to see some improvement. Remember, you need to put in the practice to get ongoing change and improvement. It also depends on how often events or circumstances are triggering poor breathing as to how quickly you can recover.

It can take up to 15,000 repetitions to change a habit. For breathing retraining, it usually takes three to six weeks to change the habit, and six months to firmly entrench the new habit.

Am I too old (or is my child too young) for retraining my breathing?

We have people of all ages, from preschoolers to the “well-experienced in life”.  With children, we keep the session light, and use games or stories to help the child breathe well, and give you ideas for home. If you can put in the practice the breathing can improve. You are never too old to learn!

Why would my breathing go wrong?

We are commonly asked this, as people think surely we just need to breathe in and out, and have done since we were born? That’s true – we all breathe, but it doesn’t mean we breathe well. Bad habits such as poor sitting postures, life events such as trauma or grief and organic disorders such as asthma all lead to changes in our breathing. Once the changes occur, the pattern may well become habitual and a disorder in its own right. Often we don’t notice things have changed until we get symptoms we can’t ignore any more.

Some other common triggers that alter our breathing:

  • mouth breathing
  • pain – especially back, neck or abdominal pain
  • busy brain
  • sinus problems/ stuffy nose
  • anxiety
  • chronic lung disease
  • ongoing emotions like grief, or excitement
  • poor posture/ergonomics
  • prolonged computer use

Remember even if the trigger has gone, the body can have developed a habit that perpetuates.

Can I refer myself or does a doctor need to refer me?

You can self-refer to Breathing Works, or your GP or specialist might refer you. You may be able to claim back some of the cost of your treatment if you have physiotherapy cover in your medical insurance. If your problem is related to an accident, ACC should cover part of the cost. At your first appointment we will ask you for your doctor’s details so that we can send them a report if you are happy with this.

If you have any other specific questions, feel free to email us at bw@breathingworks.com, or call us on (09) 522 1122.