What is Positive Pressure Breathing?

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  • Written By: Pamela Pleasant
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2018
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Positive pressure breathing refers to using a specific device to regulate the way that a person breathes. This is typically done when certain medical conditions cause difficulties. Air is pushed through a facial mask or an airway pressure system, and the air and gases within the lungs are then balanced and the breathing can return to normal. This type of breathing can help to eliminate life-threatening situations that can arise when there is not enough pressure in the lungs.

This form of breathing regulation should not be confused with negative pressure breathing, which consists of lung expansion by way of the diaphragm. When the pressure within the lungs stays the same and air moves freely in and out, negative pressure is applied. Positive pressure breathing is forcing air into the lungs to improve any pressure issues. Most problems with breathing and pressure occur when a person is sleeping because he is unable to regulate it on his own.


Snoring doesn’t seem like it would be a life-threatening medical condition, but it sometimes is. This can be due to obesity, which puts pressure on the muscle tissues, or due to overly large adenoids or tonsils. The conditions can produce pressure and a loud snoring noise as the throat muscles and surrounding tissues become relaxed and vibrate as a breath is taken. These vibrations can interrupt normal breathing patterns and, if the snoring continues for a long period of time, there is a higher risk for a heart attack or a stroke.

Another medical condition that can arise from irregular breathing is sleep apnea. Typically, while a person is asleep, breathing is rhythmic and steady. During a sleep apnea episode, a breath is taken in for too long, disrupting this rhythm. The breath can be held for so long that the next rhythmic breath is skipped, which can result in the person gasping for air and not being able to completely fill the lungs.

When positive pressure breathing is needed to correct either of these conditions, a mask or breathing tube is used to deliver the air into the lungs. Most people who are suffering with these conditions may have to use these devices for an extended period of time to avoid difficulties, especially during surgical procedures. This type of breathing regulation is only used for people with occasional pressure problems. Those who are struggling to breathe due to lung disease or a severe lung condition typically only use negative pressure breathing to keep air circulating within the lungs.


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Post 2

@gardenturtle- I can imagine that a CPAP is pretty hard to grasp for a teenager! I am 45 and it took me about two months to get used to mine. Somehow, during the night, I was taking my mask off but I did not remember doing it the next morning.

We had to try out several different types of masks until we found one that I could tolerate.

Post 1

My 16-year-old son was having a horrible time sleeping at night. He snores terribly and would wake up with nosebleeds or sneezing fits. His doctor sent him for a sleep study and it was determined that he had moderate sleep apnea.

They explained to him about the positive pressure ventilation and that he sometimes skips a breath or two. He was not very happy with the CPAP machine. He said that he looked like some kind of robot with it on. After wearing it for about a week, however, he is already feeling better.

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