With an improvement in the weather bringing an enthusiasm for getting active together with air- borne triggers such as pollen it seems as good a time as any to talk about:
EXERCISE INDUCED ASTHMA
Exercise is one of the most common triggers for asthma.
Many highly successful athletes have asthma which means if it is well managed it should not prevent you reaching your goal!
Asthma is basically over – reacting, twitchy airways when exposed to triggers such as cold, smoke, pollen etc.
Before the air reaches our lungs it has to travel through approx. 2,400 km's of progressively smaller tubes. Once we are past the first split into the right and left lung these tubes are lined with bands of muscle.
During an asthma episode or flare – up, this muscle tightens around the airways causing them to narrow. This is the tight chest feeling or sometimes noisy wheeze.
Narrowing of the airways can happen in a few ways
1. The bands of muscle around our airways spasm, therefore narrowing the tube
2. The wall of the airway can swell, become thicker and allow less room for air flow.
3. The lining of the airways can produce mucus.
1. If you take medication make sure you understand what you are taking and why.
2. Relievers – commonly Ventolin – blue puffer – relaxes the muscles around the airways and can be used 5 mins prior to exercise.
3. If you are taking your Ventolin more than 2-3 times a week OUTSIDE OF EXERCISE your asthma is not well managed. This could mean there is some swelling of the wall of the airways which may need another type of medication. See your GP.
4. Preventers – these are to help with reducing narrowing due to swelling in the walls of the airways. Commonly a red/brown colour device
5. Spacers – these are chambers that the puffer fits into. It helps to suspend the medication in the air which means it reaches right into your lungs. If you have puffers and are not using a spacer even with a good technique, you will be swallowing a significant amount. It is no good in your belly!
The crux of asthma management is making sure the way you are breathing is not bringing it on...
1. Mouth breathing – allows vast quantities of dry, unfiltered air straight to your airways. This can trigger spasm of the muscles around your airways – breathe through your nose 100% outside of exercise and during if you can.
2. Nasal breathing warms, humidifies and filters air – warm up slowly at nose breathing pace before your training sessions.
3. Post-exercise, come straight back to nasal breathing as many any people experience episodes of asthma after stopping exercise due to continuing to breathe huge amounts of air.
4. Strengthening your muscles of breathing will make them more efficient – this means less breathing effort and shortness of breath. Inspiratory Muscle Training using a POWERBreathe is available in our Athlete’s Programme at Evolved Physiotherapy and Performance
Lastly, narrowing of the airways by muscle spasm can happen without a diagnosis of asthma, simply by poor breathing habits.
Following the London Olympics a team of physios have been looking at those athletes diagnosed with what was thought to be asthma but now realised to be dysfunctional breathing bringing on similar symptoms.
So learn how to breathe!
1. Get into a habit of breathing through your nose at all times. Shut your mouth till you are moving during training or have started your race!
2. Practice long slow exhale, through your nose – this calms the nervous system and prevents over breathing ( this is so important with asthma as the most common cause for a flare up is emotional stress – think pre-race!)
3. Use your diaphragm (belly breathing) rather than upper chest muscles – relax your shoulders.
At Evolved Physiotherapy and Performance, we have a unique service using computer-based assessment software that can
1. Analyse the chemical component of your breathing i.e. carbon dioxide levels
2. Assess your respiratory muscle strength and work out a training programme
3. Offer specific breathing retraining programmes for athletes in any sport
I am also an Asthma Educator with the WA Asthma Foundation and can discuss asthma triggers, explain medications and how to take them and liaise with your GP where necessary.