Incentive spirometer-what is it?

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Health Insurance Plans starting at Rs.15/day*


The incentive spirometer is a piece of medical equipment that eases your breath by expanding the lungs. It is a hand-held device that aids to measure the volume of your breath.  

Your doctor will prescribe it normally after you undergo surgery or during lung illness. This device will help you recover your lungs from illness and facilitate comfortable breathing.  

The incentive spirometer is normally preferred to be used during prolonged bed rests after surgery. You can also take this device to your home after being prescribed by your doctor.  

Having been invented in the 1840s by an English surgeon, an incentive spirometer was initially used for life predictions for insurance policies. Over time, the usability of this device has evolved to a level where many people with various illnesses use it.  

How does an incentive spirometer work?

Incentive spirometer use is not limited to a small circle. People who have Pneumonia or other breathing-related illnesses also have breathing issues. This is because their lungs are often filled with fluids that make it hard to inhale and exhale.  

The work of the spirometer becomes crucial at such times. It expands the lungs to their full capacity and allows you to breathe deeply.  

This device can either be one of the two types:

  • Flow-oriented spirometer
  • Volume-oriented spirometer

Flow-oriented models have plastic floats enclosed within three inter-connected columns. You need to inhale using your mouth through a tube. With each inhale, the plastic floats will rise.  

A volume-oriented spirometer has chambers with volume measurements. Parts of the incentive spirometer of this model include a piston mounted inside the chamber that shows the volume of air the patient inhales.  

Nowadays, this model is preferred over the former one as it provides uniform ventilation to the lungs and requires reduced use of accessory muscles. This makes the patient breathe easily without even having to strain the muscles.  

Who can use it?

The incentive spirometer is used by people who have lung complications and those who have been on bed rest for a long time due to surgery. People belonging to the following categories can use this device:

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a bunch of respiratory disorders that cause trouble breathing. It is usually caused by smoking. People who have COPD find it hard to inhale and exhale. In this case, the incentive spirometer comes to their relief.  

There is no cure for COPD, but its symptoms can be highly minimised using the spirometer, apart from quitting smoking.  

After surgery

Bed-ridden people sometimes develop complications in breathing. Using the spirometer, breathing can be made easy as it clears the fluids spread inside your lungs and fully expands them.  

This also helps avoid other complications such as Pneumonia, Bronchospasms, respiratory failure, etc.  


Pneumonia is a health condition in which mucus is built up inside your lungs. This makes normal breathing a humongous task. But with a spirometer, you do not have to go through these complications.  


Some studies show that people with mild to moderate covid infection with trouble breathing can use an incentive spirometer to ease their symptoms.

The horizon of the application of incentive spirometer extends by including the following health conditions too:

How to use an incentive spirometer?

You can follow the step-by-step process to know how efficiently you can use this spirometer:

  • Sit in an upright position.
  • If you feel like having back support, that’s okay, but try to be in an upright position as much as possible.
  • Take out your incentive spirometer and firmly hold it in your hand.
  • Before using that, exhale fully.
  • Now place the mouthpiece of the spirometer in your mouth and wrap your lips around it.
  • Give a deep inhale through your mouth slowly and steadily.
  • This causes the ball or piston to climb up the tube.
  • Once you fully inhale, hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds without taking out the spirometer from your mouth.
  • Some devices come with a goal indicator or some sort of guide. Breath in and hold it until the indicator reaches the marked area.
  • Now remove the mouthpiece from your mouth and exhale normally.  
  • The piston ball will fall back to its original position.
  • Take a rest for a few seconds and repeat this exercise.  
  • You can repeat this at least 10 times and for 1–2 hours a day.
  • You can even cough after completing some repeats to clear your lungs.

Incentive spirometer goal

A slider is used to mark your breathing goals in the spirometer inside the chamber. Your doctor will prescribe your incentive spirometer goal by age and the level of complications.  

By setting a goal, you can track your breathing progress. This, in turn, will improve your lung capacity and allow you to breathe freely.  

If you happen to miss your breathing goal as a result of not being able to inhale the levels that you have to, you need to consult your doctor.  

In conclusion

The incentive spirometer normal range will vary based on factors such as your age, sex, height and some other physical attributes. If you have any trouble breathing due to any of the aforementioned health conditions, the incentive spirometer can be of great help.  

If you experience any dizziness or faint-like condition, take a break and continue with the exercise after some time. However, if the symptoms persist, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible.  

Nowadays, you can get an incentive spirometer from pharmaceuticals and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, etc. You can also get it from rural health centers and some clinics.  

An incentive spirometer comes in handy to ease out your breathing troubles. In addition to using a spirometer, maintaining good pulmonary hygiene and giving up practices that cause harm to your lungs, such as smoking, will help you lead a healthy life.  


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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