9 Tips to Decrease Breathlessness While Carrying ANYTHING
Every now and again I want to revisit topics that I have covered in the past. These topics never “get old” when it comes to managing a lung diagnosis. Every week when I meet with new patients, I ask them “What activities cause you to be breathless?” Time and time again one of the top 5 answers I get is “carrying things.” The hardest part about this reality is that we have to do it all the time. There’s no getting around the fact that we need to be able to move items from one place to another multiple times a day. Whether it be carrying laundry, picking up after our children, or bringing in groceries and other items from the store the task of carrying anything when you have a lung diagnosis is something that you need to know how to do with less breathlessness.
Here are 9 Tips to Decrease Breathlessness While Carrying ANYTHING.
1: Focus on upper body strengthening when you are exercising. There is no doubt that having a strong upper body can make any load seem lighter. So many of my patients rush through lifting weights for upper body strengthening at our rehab. We try and make the suggestion that if you are inclined to rush through or skip these exercises… put them in the “middle” of your exercise routine. As you get stronger and the weights that you are lifting seem lighter, progress yourself by increasing the weight that you are lifting. (For ideas on what exercises you can do to increase your upper body strength check out my blog on 6 Arm Strengthening Exercises.)
2. Don’t try to carry too much weight – Over exerting yourself by carrying something that weighs too much can cause the breathlessness to come on quickly and can possibly cause injury from strain or stress on the joints. If you are at the grocery store, have your bagger “spread the wealth” when it comes to putting heavy items in your grocery bags. I asked my bagger the other day how they are trained on bagging and he said, “we aim for 5.” That is 5 items in each bag which, if given the wrong combination, can be pretty heavy. Ask him to limit heavier items to one per bag. In other instances, like carrying a laundry basket, only fill the basket half way to transport your clothing and they go back for another load if necessary. Sometimes taking more trips can be easier on your breathing than carrying an item or items that are too heavy for one trip. 3. Practice good body mechanics. Keep the items you are carrying midline to your body. Try not to carry anything with your arms out to the sides. Carry the item close to your midsection with both arms not just one. Having the use of both arms with give you more strength and will not burden your body quite as much. Also, remember to keep your back straight and don’t lean back to support the weight.
4. Breathe and/or Purse lip breathe- One of the biggest mistakes people make when carrying anything is, they hold their breath. When carrying don’t forget to breathe! Using breathing techniques will help prevent your shortness of breath from occurring so quickly, will help you complete the task of carrying an item and will help you to recover faster from any shortness of breath that occurred. (For more info, see Breathing Techniques Blog)
5. Prepare for the activity – If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I make this statement often when giving tips. If you know that you are getting ready to exert yourself and it may cause you to be breathless, go ahead and use your rescue inhaler before starting the activity. Having your short-acting bronchodilator on board can help you to breathe better throughout the activity and may help you to recover faster if you should become breathless.
6. Don’t rush- Many of my patients in the past have stated that they tend to hurry through the activity “before the breathlessness catches up to them.” The fact is that rushing anything is a quick way to bring on shortness of breath. Taking your time will help keep shortness of breath at bay and will also prevent any injury resulting from going too fast.
7. Rest between trips- This tip was given to me by one of my patients. She suggested that when she is carrying in groceries that she tries to bring all the refrigerated items in first (not at one time), then she takes a break (sometimes for hours or overnight) and then returns for the pantry items. Essentially, it’s okay to take breaks in getting a task completed. We all like to finish something we have started, yet when you have a chronic lung condition you must take the time to rest and recover.
8. Get a rolling tote – A rolling tote will give you the ability to transport items in and around the home like groceries, clothing, and in my case children’s toys to the appropriate room. When I was researching for this blog, I saw a bunch of different options online. I did like the fact that this one (that I have linked below to Amazon) is collapsible, rated well, and has the extendible handle. It runs about $32 if you are interested. Feel free to check your local Walmart, Target, or big box store for other options if interested.
9. Ask for help when needed – There are times no matter all the tips or tricks we employ that the task at hand is just too difficult. These are the times when we just need to ask a friend or family member for help. If you live alone ask a neighbor if their teenage children could help with carrying items in from the car. Kids loved to be “tipped with sweets” so pick up a package of yummy cookies or a pack of gum as a tip or “thank you” to hand out to teens that may lend a hand. Trust me… it will have them rushing to help the next time you need help.