Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About Changing Your Position for Breathing
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Learning About Changing Your Position for Breathing

What are proning and repositioning?

Proning and repositioning your body may help you feel better if you have mild trouble breathing. Changing positions can help your lungs work better. You rotate through positions in bed: lying on your belly ("proning"), on your right and left sides, and sitting up.

How do you prepare?

It's important to do proning and repositioning only after talking with your doctor. You need to be able to move your body around in bed by yourself. Don't try a position if it's uncomfortable. Reasons for this may include:

  • Recent belly surgery.
  • Weakness or pain anywhere.
  • Any condition that may make it hard to lie on your belly or sides.

How is it done?

Before you start, get some towels and pillows ready to help support you and make you comfortable when you lie in these positions.

Stay in each of these positions for 30 minutes to 2 hours. The amount of time that's right for you depends on your doctor's advice and how long you can stay comfortable. If any of these positions start to hurt or make your breathing worse, stop and try another one.

Lie flat on your belly.

slide 1 of 4
slide 1 of 4, Lie flat on your belly.,

Putting rolled-up towels or pillows under your hips and head may help make you more comfortable.

Lie on your right side.

slide 2 of 4
slide 2 of 4, Lie on your right side.,

Sit up in bed or in a chair.

slide 3 of 4
slide 3 of 4, Sit up in bed or in a chair.,

Try not to slouch.

Lie on your left side.

slide 4 of 4
slide 4 of 4, Lie on your left side. ,

Repeat the positions as needed or as your doctor tells you.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if you have life-threatening symptoms, such as:

  • You have severe trouble breathing. (You can't talk at all.)

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have moderate trouble breathing. (You can't speak a full sentence.)

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.