Breathing Pattern Disorder

Manchester's Premier Respiratory Clinic

What is Breathing Pattern Disorder?

Breathing is a normal process for all fo us which we take for granted.  However it requires a significant amount of muscle coordination to expand our lungs to support the development of pressure gradient from the positively pressurised atmosphere in to the  negative pressure during inspiration and the reverse process during expiration (as per the diagram). 

BPD, also termed dysfunctional breathing,  the normal chest muscle function and dynamics of breathing are lost. This leads to an uncoordinated process, which not only causes breathlessness disproportionate to the extent or severity of any underlying lung disease but can lead to symptoms within the body which are not those of breathlessness.




  •  Breathlessness, disproportionate to the extent of exertion or occurring at rest.
  • Air hunger or repetitive yawning
  • Chest discomfort,  pain or tightness
  • Dry throat or cough


  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Anxiety attacks, or feeling dissociated
  • Cramps
  • Excess wind
  • Pins and needles


There are many causes that can lead individuals to develop BPD

These are broadly split into the following headings:


  • Depression, Anxiety or Stress

Medical conditions

  • Chronic Lung disease such as: Asthma, COPD, ILO, Lung fibrosis

 Severe chest pain:

  •  pleurisy, Pneumonia, Blood clot on the lungs, Trauma to the chest wall or rib fractures.

However there are many individuals where no cause is found.


Relies on:

  • Subjective assessment which occurs during the consultation with your doctor, this allows the identification of the disease causing your symptoms as well as the triggers causing the symptoms
  • Investigations look to diagnose underlying cause of the BPD. Often treatment of any underlying cause, for example optimised asthma treatment, can resolve the BPD and its associated symptoms.


There are a group of individuals who despite treating any underlying factors contributing to BPD still retrain the dysfunction breathing process in this group assessment by a specialist physiotherapist in BPD is essential to support resolution of symptoms.  The aim is to reset the breathing pattern to normality at rest, during exercise and when exposed to triggers which set of the BPD.


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