BACKGROUND Analysis of chest wall kinematics can contribute to identifying the reasons why some patients benefit from pursed-lip breathing (PLB). MATERIAL AND METHODS We evaluated the displacement of the chest wall and its compartments, the rib cage and abdomen, by optoelectronic plethysmography (OEP), during supervised PLB maneuver in 30 patients with mild to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). RESULTS OEP showed two different patterns. A first pattern characterized the 19 most severely obstructed and hyperinflated patients in whom PLB decreased end-expiratory volumes of the chest wall and abdomen, and increased end-inspiratory volumes of the chest wall and rib cage. Deflation of the abdomen and inflation of the rib cage contributed to increasing tidal volume of the chest wall. The second pattern characterized 11 patients in whom, compared to the former group, PLB resulted in the following: (i) increased end-expiratory volume of the rib cage and chest wall, (ii) greater increase in end-inspiratory volume of the rib cage and abdomen, and (iii) lower tidal volume of the chest wall. In the patients as a whole changes in end-expiratory chest wall volume were related to change in Borg score (r(2)=0.5, p<0.00002). CONCLUSIONS OEP helps identifying the reason why patients with COPD may benefit from PLB at rest.