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Navigating Long COVID: Insight into Breathing Pattern Disorder and the Journey to Recovery

Co-authored by Dr. Andrew Potter, Whaddon Medical Centre

March 25th, 2024

Breathing pattern disorder (BPD) is a common sequela of long COVID and has significant functional effects even in the absence of evidence of damage to the lungs or breathing apparatus [1]. Long COVID care facilities have witnessed a surge in patients grappling with breathlessness and fatigue, with BPD emerging as a primary contributory and perpetuating factor. The repercussions of BPD can manifest in various forms, ranging from shortness of breath and chest pains to profound distress and anxiety, impacting an individual's capacity to resume their regular leisure, caregiving, and occupational activities.

At the forefront of our experience within the long COVID clinic, we've encountered a recurring narrative: the oversight of BPD by both primary and secondary healthcare practitioners. Patients often present with persistent and incapacitating breathlessness, yet discussions surrounding the impact of their breathing patterns on these symptoms are frequently absent. Recognizing this gap, our long COVID service has taken proactive steps to integrate a respiratory physiotherapist into a specialized role focused on optimizing breathing function and alleviating these distressing symptoms.

The outcomes of this approach have been nothing short of remarkable. Many individuals have experienced significant improvements in breathlessness, even in the absence of underlying lung pathology, thanks to intensive physiotherapy interventions and ongoing support. By addressing BPD directly and tailoring interventions to an individual's needs, we've witnessed a profound impact on patient outcomes and overall well-being.

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Addressing Breathing Pattern Disorder in Long COVID Recovery

In essence, recognizing and proactively addressing BPD is essential within the comprehensive care continuum for long COVID survivors. By acknowledging the importance of BPD management and prioritizing targeted interventions, we not only enhance patient outcomes but also pave the way towards a brighter and healthier future for those navigating the challenges of long COVID recovery.


To achieve comprehensive recovery, it's vital to expand our range of tools and services, strengthening support for respiratory physiotherapists and enhancing services specifically tailored to address BPD. Additionally by enriching our arsenal of resources and adopting a multifaceted approach, we can effectively guide individuals towards restoring healthy breathing patterns and fostering overall well-being.

This proactive strategy not only serves to optimize respiratory function but also significantly improves the quality of life for those navigating the complexities of long COVID recovery. By harnessing the specialized expertise of respiratory physiotherapists and offering comprehensive support services, we empower individuals to overcome the challenges posed by BPD and regain control over their respiratory health.

Ultimately, through the prioritization of these interventions and the cultivation of a collaborative approach to care, we can pave a pathway towards a more robust and sustainable journey to recovery for long COVID survivors. Together, by uniting resources, expertise, and support, we can empower individuals to navigate the recovery process with resilience and optimism, facilitating their return to a healthier and fulfilling life.

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 [1] Genecand L, Altarelli M, Binkova A, Loew S, Vaudan S, Gex G, Bridevaux PO, Frésard I. Dysfunctional breathing symptoms, functional impact, and quality of life in patients with long COVID-19: a prospective case series. BMJ Open Respir Res. 2023 Jul;10(1):e001770. doi: 10.1136/bmjresp-2023-001770.

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