Face Mask Mishaps !
By Dr. Dan
One thing that we can all agree on is that wearing a face mask during Covid 19 SUCKS! As a society, we may not agree on everything, but we can at least come together on the point that wearing something over your nose and mouth is extremely uncomfortable. On top of the physical discomfort of being “strapped in,” there is also a physiological discomfort that many people are experiencing…feeling like they CAN’T BREATHE!
Not only is this a terrible feeling, but it is scary as well, and even panic inducing for some. But fear not my friends, there is a way to mitigate this feeling! It is quite simple to be honest. You need to shut your mouth, stop talking, and breathe through your nose.
Why it happens!
Every person has a certain tolerance to having carbon dioxide build up in their blood (CO2 Tolerance). For most of us it’s quite low because it never gets put to the test. An inability to tolerate CO2 makes us feel like we can’t get enough oxygen in our system. CO2 tells the brain to BREATHE MORE! So what happens when we put a mask over our face? You guessed it! We end up re-breathing part of our own CO2 output, and that increases our blood levels of CO2.
What you can do about it!
Nasal-only breathing is the number one thing you can do to stop your feeling of breathlessness while wearing a mask. When you breathe through your nose you end up slowing down your breathing rate, so you don’t blow off as much CO2. You will also cause your body to release Nitric Oxide (NO) from your nasal tissues. NO is a very potent vasodilator, which allows your arteries to deliver more blood to your tissues, making you more efficient at oxygen delivery, and thus making you feel less breathless.
The second thing you can do when you are wearing your mask is not to talk as much. Talking causes you to produce more CO2, and thus you end up hitting your CO2 tolerance limit faster, decreasing the amount of time you can wear your mask comfortably.
Finally, the last thing you can do is to actually improve your CO2 tolerance with different breathing exercises. One of my favourites is called box breathing:
Inhale for 5 seconds
Hold for 5 seconds
Exhale for 5 seconds
Hold for 5 seconds
Repeat 12 cycles
This technique works because it makes you breathe 3 times per minute, so your body gets used to having more CO2 in your blood. So it doesn’t have the same reaction to CO2 at a later time when you wear your mask. It’s kind of like how the first time it hits 5 degrees C in the fall we all find it cold… but the first time it hits 5 degrees C in the spring we all think it’s warm! Your body gets tolerant to the cold over the period of the winter. As you practice box breathing every day, your body will get used to CO2. The adaption period is about 2 weeks to see a huge difference, but you’ll notice little differences right away.
I made you a short video so that you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
There is also a whole host of other benefits to increasing CO2 tolerance. Check out these links:
Figure out your CO2 Tolerance
-This link also has some more advanced exercises for increasing CO2 Tolerance .
Have Anxiety ? This could help !
– This link to a study showing improved CO2 tolerance can reduced anxiety.
How to Box Breath.
– This link is how to do a 4 count box breathing cycle
If you have any questions about what Dr. Dan is talking about, click here to book an appointment with one of our chiropractors who would love to discuss them with you