If you have breathing difficulties after recovering from COVID, you are not alone. The research shows that 1 in 6 people with mild to moderate COVID continue to have some type of breathing issue after the acute stage of the sickness has passed (Evans, Pick et al. 2023).
The breathing difficulties can be due to heart or lung problems that persist after the initial infection but in many cases the symptoms are caused by poor or ‘dysfunctional” breathing.
Some research has found that around 80% of people with breathlessness and exercise intolerance after long COVID have dysfunctional breathing (Frésard, Genecand et al. 2022).
Classic post COVID breathing symptoms that are likely due to dysfunctional breathing include:
- Excessive awareness of breathing
- Air hunger (feeling of being unable to take a deep enough breath)
- Feeling that breathing is no longer automatic
- Feeling of pressure or heavy weight on the chest
- Disproportionally out of breath on exertion or at rest
- Variability in how and when breathlessness occurs
There can also be classic hyperventilation symptoms like dizziness, blurred vision, pins and needles, palpitations, anxiety and general symptoms like bloating, muscle tension in the neck and shoulders and headache (from Evans “Breathing difficulties after covid-19: a guide for primary care”).
The good news is that dysfunctional breathing responds really well to Integrative Breathing Therapy (IBT) protocols like the 6 week ‘Healing with the Breath’ program that I’ve developed and taught to practitioners around the world. This program was recommended to patients attending the ReCOVer long COVID clinic at Boston Medical Centre and taught by Hadas Golan, a speech and language pathologist I have trained who is now certified in Integrative Breathing Therapy. Results were very positive, patients experienced significant reductions in breathlessness and other symptoms and signs of dysfunctional breathing. We recently published the results of this study (Golan, Courtney et al. 2023) and the article is available to download here
The next ‘Healing with the Breath’ course is: