Article Text

The non-pharmacological management of breathlessness
  1. Jenny Taylor, Head of Physiotherapy
  1. St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, London. Email: j.taylor{at}


The non-pharmacological management of breathlessness has an important adjuvant role in the treatment of breathlessness at the end of life. This article will describe elements of breathing control techniques used by physiotherapists that can be modified and implemented effectively by nurses in all care settings. Positioning, relaxation, and energy-conservation measures are also supportive evidence-based strategies that can be adopted by nurses in their role as key members of the clinical team. Results of a small audit carried out at St Christopher’s Hospice are presented. These showed that anxiety and panic play a more significant role than was assessed initially in a proportion of patients referred for breathlessness management. Understanding the mechanism of panic will equip the nurse to provide appropriate support. Patients are often desperate to retain some personal control even at this stage in their disease and will respond positively to self-help measures when supported by the nurse. All quotations used in this article have been taken (with permission) from patients referred for physiotherapy intervention for breathlessness management. Declaration of interests: none

  • Anxiety
  • Breathing control
  • Breathlessness
  • End of life
  • Non-pharmacological
  • strategies
  • Nursing role

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