Breathing just top of your lungs - Asthma UK communi...

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Breathing just top of your lungs


Sorry, I know I keep asking lots at the minute, and I am hoping to see the GP next week (just need to ring first thing each day to try and bag a 'book on the day' appointment)

After being generally well controlled for some time, except for exercise, I've been waking up during the night for the last few nights.

Anyway, my question is that during the day I don't seem too bad but I have this feeling that I'm only breathing with the top half of my lungs. Idk if that makes sense to anyone? Is there anything I can do to relieve it?

17 Replies
EmmaF91Community Ambassador


It could be a couple things...

When asthma starts flaring up people tended to breathe from their upper ribs/chest as well as breathing faster. This means that it can either feel like you’re using your upper chest/ribs/muscles to breathe, or that you’re not breathing deep enough to get the air into the base of your lungs.

If this this is the case concentrate on breathing from your belly/lower ribs and slowing your breath down a little.

If this a struggle, it could be that your airways are narrowing to the point where it’s harder to pass air through it (this is where wheezing normally originates), or that you’ve got a cold or something brewing, clogging up the base of your lungs... if this is the case ventolin, GP and/or hospital.

It depends on any symptoms you’re getting (cough, wheeze, SoB etc) on top of the breathing ‘dysfunction’. Waking at night with asthma is never a good sign tho so it may be caused by your asthma and your just not noticing symptoms (this happens to me a lot!)

Hope that helps, and if you worsen go to a&e and get some treatment- it may be that you need a little extra just to calm everything down again!

Good luck getting your GP appt!


-Butterfly- in reply to EmmaF91

Yes I do feel like I'm breathing faster and also feel as though I have to 'sigh' every now and then. I will consciously try to breathe deeper and slower.

I'm getting tightness, cough, short of breath as well as this issue. I think I'm in denial arent' I?! 😳

EmmaF91Community Ambassador in reply to -Butterfly-

Sounds like you are in denial yes 😕... I’d take yourself down to a&e. Sighing usually a sign that your bodies not getting the amount of oxygen it needs.

Just remember the sooner you go in to hosp, the quicker you get out!

SoB, tightness, cough, night symptoms and wakings, and I’m assuming your ventolin not stopping the symptoms (or not lasting for 4hs)... I’d go if only so you can actually sleep tonight... it’s going to be a couple of days at least until you see you GP too!

Look after yourself and let me know what you end up doing xxx

-Butterfly- in reply to EmmaF91

I decided against a&e, I just don't feel bad enough for it. My peak flow is still 70% of best and I am getting some relief from ventolin. I'm worried I'd just be sent away.

I'm thinking I'll call 111 later to get an appointment at the walk in (only emergencies are allowed to 'walk in' otherwise you need to ring for an appointment apparentlt)

I'm making more effort to try and breathe deep although exhaling takes more consious effort.

I'll let you know how I get on at the walk in.

EmmaF91Community Ambassador in reply to -Butterfly-

Ok good luck, but just remember that if at any point you feel worse, go in. Breathing is a vital function, if it stops so will you! Also PF isn’t always that reliable so try not to use that as the only reason to not go in!

70% is bad enough if it’s the max you hit with regular ventolin! And a&e would rather treat us in the minors department than in resus/majors!

Hope it all goes ok for you and that you don’t have too much snow (wondered why I was squeaking until I looked out the window 😅) xxx

-Butterfly- in reply to EmmaF91

Just waiting at the walk in now, I hope I'm not waiting too long because I really want to take my inhaler but was hoping for them to see me before it. It's very busy though, and someone with head wound has just walked in so I'm not hopeful. I did explain my symptoms when I arrived but they weren't too concerned.

EmmaF91Community Ambassador in reply to -Butterfly-

Ok. Good luck and hope you get seen soon (if you haven’t already been seen yet!) x

Abc64 in reply to -Butterfly-

I have said to the dr that I feel like this also. Then they give me steroids, which helps me breathe deeper.

Hi you might be trapping carbon monoxide lower down your lungs. This would make you feel like this.

Try this exercise - breathe in as deep as possible and hold it for a few seconds, then breathe out slowly and keep going even when you make whistling sounds. Try doing this half a dozen times a day and it should help. x

I know exactly what you mean, it's like a blockage between my throat and the top of my ribs, always seek help if you need to. People say things about the nhs but they have been brilliant with me, if youre unsure dial 111 . But I have started sleeping with no pillow(s) and this has really helped me, it might not work for everyone but worth a try.

Hi Butterfly. You've had some good advice here but if you think you're struggling, get medical help. Don't dither, GO!

I would add that the deep breathing has to consciously happen sometimes, using your tummy muscles not your shoulders to pull a deep breath in. I tend to pause for a count of 3 sometimes when just breathed out and lungs empty, seems to help CO2 balance (Buteyo method advice).

Also, make sure you're standing and breathing from your stomach when taking your inhalers. I sat down when using inhalers for a while, and trouble built up....can't get inhaler stuff to bottom of lungs.

Hope that helps BUT seek help sooner rather than later. Asthma can be a killer, don't forget.

-Butterfly- in reply to Yatzy

The breathing bit makes sense, probably sonething I need to work at! Great advice about taking inhaers too, I do happen to be stood but only because of where it is rather than because I've planned it that way.

I am waiting to be seen at the walk in now, hope I'm not waiting too long, I've delibeately not had my inhaler for a bit so they can see me 'worst case' but I'll just have to go ahead and take it soon.

I get this feeling an awful lot. My asthma nurse said I my small airways are twitchy. Sometimes I feel like I am breathing into a stone, like the air goes in and out but to no effect. When I was in hospital last, it was like the air was going on but not out fully. It is all annoying. It is so hard to describe asthma symptoms, especially in the middle of an attack. Keep an eye on your symptoms and if you feel worse, seek help. Take care. xxxx

-Butterfly- in reply to emmasue

Yes, this, air going in but not all coming out.

I find it difficult to explain my symptoms to people who don't get it! Like the itchy feeling deep inside that makes me cough and the feeling of being wheezy even if I can't hear it.

emmasue in reply to -Butterfly-

The worst part is when the doctor asks if you are feeling anxious. If you can't breathe, who wouldn't feel anxious! 🙁

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador in reply to -Butterfly-

I also find it difficult to explain, especially if it doesn't fit their repertoire of what they expect to hear! I also hate the anxiety thing. I agree it would be a natural reaction to not being able to breathe but also I am so used to it all now that actually I don't get anxious and they seem unable to grasp that. asked after they had given me.a few nebs and I was therefore shaky. Err the shakiness would be the nebs?!

Hope you get seen soon and they're helpful. Maybe make a point of saying you just took inhaler?

I have suffered from this for a few years now and its HELL, I assumed it was asthma but its not in fact related and it "hyperventilation syndrome" and some medics take it seriously and others scoff and say "what you forgot how to breathe" but yes from a stressful job I learnt to hold breath without thinking and breath from chest only so now if I run for a bus I feel like my heart is going to explode and I cant catch breath for about an hour. Bought this book on amazon to help me retrain breathing.

Hyperventilation Syndrome

Bradley, Dinah

It is very real so dont listen to anyone who says it isn't , also known as chronic breathing disorder pattern. Ideally see a physio who will help you with lessons you can do at home.

The most important thing I believe but do your own research and ask the doctor is that this condition despite feeling horrendous IS NOT LIFE threatening like asthma is, but obviously make sure you know the difference between this and asthma attack where you need to go accident and emergency

Breathe in through nose and out through mouth but exhale should be longer than inhale.

You have to learn not to yawn or inhale deeply to satisfy that lack of air in your lungs when you get the urge and practice breathing so tummy moves up and down not chest, I can only practice lying down, they say after time it becomes natural again GOOD LUCK

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