Using an Incentive Spirometer

March 21, 2017

Using an Incentive Spirometer

An incentive spirometer is a device that helps you do deep breathing exercises. These exercises will help you breathe better and improve the function of your lungs. The incentive spirometer gives you a way to take an active part in your recovery.

Follow these steps to use your incentive spirometer

Inhale normally. Relax and breathe out:

  • Place your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.

  • Make sure the device is upright and not tilted.

  • Inhale as much air as you can through the mouthpiece (don't breathe through your nose). Some spirometers have an indicator to let you know that you are breathing in too fast. If the indicator goes off, breathe in more slowly.

  • Hold your breath long enough to keep the balls (or disk) raised for at least 5 seconds.

  • Do this exercise every hour while you’re awake or as often as your healthcare provider instructs.

  • If you were also taught coughing exercises, do them regularly as instructed.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to call the healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath that doesn't get better after taking your medicine

  • Chest pain

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Brownish, bloody, or smelly sputum

  • Blue lips or fingernails


March 21, 2017


Qaseem, A. Diagnosis and Management of Stable COPD. A Clinical Practice Guidelines from ACP, ACCP, ATS, and ERS. Annals of Internal Medicine (2011); 155 (3); pp. 179-192

Reviewed By:  

Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN,Blaivas, Allen J., DO