Today@Sam Article

Osteopathic Doctors Offer Self-Exercises For Respiratory Infections

April 13, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Written by: Shannon Jimenez DO, FACOFP, Sharon Gustowski, DO, MPH

Healthcare workers across the country are working feverishly to keep up with our current pandemic. As osteopathic physicians, we desperately want to do everything that we can to treat people to the best of our abilities. To that end, we have devised some home exercises that people with Coronavirus or other respiratory infections can do to help the body heal itself. These should take 10-15 minutes.

This set of exercises can be done 3-4 times a day if time and energy allows. We have also included a short video guide below the written instructions.

1. Neck Rolls

Purpose: The purpose of neck rolls is to loosen up the muscles and tissue around the neck, something we call the thoracic inlet. The thoracic inlet contains major vessels in which blood and lymph flow. Lymph contains a lot of the cells and substances that make up your immune system and it has circulation like your blood does.

Exercise: Start by sitting up straight, sitting or leaning forward in your chair so you are not using the back of your chair. Now put your chin toward your chest and stretch the back of your neck. Now, gently roll your head to the right side and stretch the left side of your neck. Now, roll your head toward the back and stretch the front of your neck. Finally, roll your head to the left side and stretch the right side of your neck. Then go back to chin-on-the-chest position and start again. Do 5 neck rolls in each direction.

ArmRollCover2. Arm Circles

Purpose: The purpose of arm circles is to stretch the muscles that connect your arms to your chest. This improves the expansion of your chest and improves airflow and circulation. Better airflow and circulation means more immune system products and oxygen are getting to where they need to go to fight infection.

Exercise: Raise your arms out to your sides even with your shoulders. Rotate both arms forward starting with small circles. Make each circle bigger until they are as big as you can get and you feel some stretching in your shoulders. Do 10 forward circles. Then, reverse direction and do backwards circles, stretching those chest and back muscles. Do 10 of them as well. If you cannot extend your arms due to space issues or injury, try the same thing, just using your shoulders instead.

3. Deep Breathing (aka Box Breathing Technique)

Purpose: The purpose of deep breathing is to increase chest movement and airflow and circulation to the lungs. You may also find it calming and energizing because it slows you down and improves oxygen supply to the whole body.

Exercise: Inhale slowly and deeply while counting to 4. Hold your breath for 4 counts. Then, exhale slowly while counting to 4 and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle 10 times.

 4. Abdominal/Back Stretches

Purpose: This exercise is a seated variation of a common yoga pose called Cat and Cow pose. This exercise stretches the muscles around your spine and your chest. This improves breathing and also improves immune system circulation.

Exercise: Sit forward on your chair so your back is not touching the back of the chair. To perform Cow pose push, your tummy forward and your shoulders and hips back arching your back. Then your move to neutral for a second. To move into Cat pose, think about moving your tummy toward your back. Lean slightly forward, rounding your back and move your shoulders forward to resemble a cat arching its back when it is threatened. Breathe in as you move into Cow pose and breathe out slowly as you move into Cat pose. Use your box breathing technique that we discussed earlier. Do each post 10 times.

5. Pelvic Stretch

Purpose: This is a seated variation on a yoga position called child’s pose. It will stretch your pelvic floor muscles and increase circulation of blood and lymph (immune system products).

Exercise: Perform this in a chair without arms. Sit back on your chair. Lean forward placing your body between your knees. Stretch your arms forward toward the floor and breathe. You should feel your inner thighs stretching a bit. You can also put another chair in front of you to hold onto for balance or comfort if needed. Do your box breathing. Stay there for 10 box breath cycles.

6. Pedal Pumps

Purpose: This technique improves something called lymphatic drainage, which is the movement of immune system products all around the body.

Exercise: When seated or standing, flex your ankles so your toes point towards you, and then bend your ankles so your toes point away from you. Perform at a rhythm of about 2 times a second for at least 3 minutes.

 7. Walking also helps.

If you cannot do anything else, try to do this. Every few hours, get up and walk around for 5 or 10 minutes if you can. This will help your immune system as well.

*video walkthrough:

** This advice is in addition to any medical therapies prescribed by a personal physician. Of course, if you have a lot of pain when you do any of these things they may be modified. If you have pain that is too severe or other issues or injuries that my make these exercises cause you harm, please check with your doctor before doing them. If you get short of breath when you do these exercises, call your doctor.


Shannon Jimenez DO, FACOFP

Chair and Associate Professor of Primary Care and Clinical Medicine,

Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine


Sharon Gustowski, DO, MPH

Chair and Associate Professor of Osteopathic Principles and Practice,

Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine

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