Physical Health
Video/Text

What do the test results mean? (video)

Lesson 2 Chapter 1 Module 1

Take the Breathing Questionnaire if you have't already done so

Summary

Dysfunctional Breathing


  • Common health condition, responsible for a wide range of breathing problems and aches-and-pains which don't respond well to conventional medicine.
  • Definition of Dysfunctional Breathing from Boulding and Stacey (2016)1, The important points to note are that the breathing disorder is chronic, i.e. habitual, and that there is no obvious medical cause. It's sometimes known as the "Fat File Syndrome" because it's sufferers pass from medical specialist to medical specialist carrying a file that gets fatter as they go.Incidence of Dysfunctional Breathing in the older population is probably greater than 50%, including less serious cases that do not require formal medical treatment.
The Buteyko Breathing Test

The Breath Hold Test developed by Prof. Buteyko is an accurate measure of your tolerance to the build-up of carbon dioxide in your lungs, which correlates to your tendency to hyperventilate, or breathe more heavily than you need to. 

  • Less than 20 is poor, and you should consult your doctor before starting this program. 
  • Between 20 and 30 is fairly normal but indicates mild hyperventilation that could be improved with training.
  • Greater than 30 is excellent at this stage, but we need to aim for 40 and above.
The Nijmegen Questionnaire

In use since the 1980s as a screening tool to detect patients with hyperventilation complaints.

  • A score greater than 19 is considered poor, and an indication of dysfunctional breathing.
  • A score between 13 and 19 is in the normal range2 but provides evidence of some breathing or anxiety-related complaints that could probably be improved by Buteyko training. 
  • A score of 13 or less is excellent.
Consolidated Results

Take the lower category of the breathing test and the questionnaire, and review the recommendations below: 

  • Excellent - you don't appear to have any breathing issues and you don't have a pressing need to take the course, but there are various reasons why you might want to. For example to improve the quality of your sleep, or to improve your athletic performance.
  • OK - you don't appear to have any serious breathing issues, but you would benefit from taking the course with the aim of improving your breath hold time to 40 seconds or more and bringing your Nijmegen score down to 15 or less. This will improve your immune response and help prevent you catching colds, flu, etc. 
  • Poor - it is essential that you get the approval and buy-in from your doctor before starting the program. If you are under medical care for asthma, emphysema, COPD or any other cardiovascular issue you should seriously consider working with a qualified Buteyko trainer on a one-to-one basis.
Less-serious Symptoms of DB/HVS 3
  • Achy muscles and joints
  • Back Pain
  • Breathing discomfort
  • Chest Pains
  • Clammy hands
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Dizzy spells or feeling spaced out
  • Erratic heartbeats
  • Feeling anxious and uptight
  • Feeling of 'air hunger'
  • Frequent sighing and yawning
  • Irritability or hypervigilance
  • Pins and needles
  • Shattered confidence
  • Tired all the time
  • Upset gut/nausea
More Serious Issues with DB/HVS
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma attack
  • COPD
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Emphysema
  • General asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Migraine
  • Sleep apnea
Notes and References
  1. Boulding, R., Stacey, R., et al (2016). Dysfunctional breathing: a review of the literature and proposal for classification. European Respiratory Review 2016 25: 287-294.  "Dysfunctional Breathing is a term describing breathing disorders where chronic changes in breathing pattern result in dyspnoea (shortness of breath) and other symptoms in the absence or in excess of the magnitude of physiological respiratory or cardiac disease."
  2. Note that the "normal" range (13-19) for the Nijmegen Questionnaire is valid for North American and European subjects. For Chinese (and possibly other Asian) subjects it is much lower (0.1 to 9.5). (Boulding & Stacey, 2016)
  3. Chaitow, L., Bradley, D. & Gilbert, C. (2014).  Recognizing and Treating  Breathing Disorders. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
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