Hyperventilation Syndrome

HYPERVENTILATION SYNDROME


Hyperventilation syndrome is caused by a person breathing too quickly, or in excess of metabolic requirements. It is usually due to someone having a habitual abnormal breathing pattern and results in a change in blood gas levels. Taking in more air than needed results in too much oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide.

CAUSES:

Hyperventilation Syndrome is usually caused by stress and anxiety, and symptoms may be worse at times of heightened stress.

SYMPTOMS: 

  • Dizziness and blurred vision
  • Tingling in the body and around the mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Sighing and yawning
  • Achey muscles
  • Nightmares 
  • Anxiety
  • Clammy hands
  • Bloating and symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Sickness

DIAGNOSIS:

  • Nijmegen Questionnaire can be used to inform diagnosis of hyperventilation syndrome
  • Observation of breathing rate and rhythm
  • Auscultation of the lungs and heart (listening with a stethoscope) 
  • In some cases it may be necessary to take blood pressure or have a chest X-ray or ECG taken

MANAGEMENT:

  1. Reassure yourself that the symptoms are not life-threatening and will pass.
  2. Breathing retraining exercises to regulate breathing pattern and encourage slower abdominal breathing in through the nose. These should be practiced daily and can be used during a panic attack to encourage relaxation.
  3. Osteopathic treatment to improve lower-rib breathing mechanics and avoid overusing the accessory muscles of respiration in the neck and chest.
  4. Address possible underlying causes of stress/anxiety, for example Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to better understand and cope with symptoms.
  5. Mindfulness meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques. There are a number of guided meditations available on youtube, spotify etc. or you can lead your own. Start by lying on your back or sitting comfortably in a chair; Close your eyes and relax the muscles in your toes, feet and ankles. Work your way up the body to the top of the head, relaxing the muscles of the face, head and jaw. This can be done at any time or place.