Breathing is one of our most vital functions. It occurs all day long and without conscious control (this means we don’t have to think about it, we just do it). Many different muscles are involved with each breath and many joints throughout the spine and rib cage are also implicated in this process. If we are breathing incorrectly or with a dysfunctional pattern, then the effects can be significant considering how repetitive this process is. On the flip side if you are experiencing pain or have stiffness through your spine, this may be influencing how you are breathing and can likely be contributing to a dysfunctional pattern of breathing.
Correct breathing is supposed to be 3 dimensional and our breath should be directed into our diaphragm and abdomen. Watch a new born baby breathe and you will see that their stomach expands in all directions with every breath they take in. Anxiety, stress, postural dysfunctions and health conditions (such as lung disease, the flu and many others) can all lead to poor breathing styles. At the clinic, we see a lot of patients that breathe predominantly into their chest. This can cause tight muscles in the neck, upper back and shoulder. This is a very inefficient style of breathing and can cause shortness of breath and fatigue with activities that require higher oxygen demands.
Physiotherapists are concerned with muscles and joints in your body and that includes your diaphragm and other muscles that are used while breathing. Your physiotherapist will look at your breathing pattern and be able to determine if that may be contributing to your injury and/or condition. They will also help you learn how to breathe properly.
Try lying on your back with your knees bent. Put your hands on your stomach with your thumbs wrapping around your rib cage on both sides. When you breathe in, you should feel your stomach and hands rising towards the ceiling as well as your ribcage expanding out to the side. You should have little or no movement in your upper chest and neck region. This is a good position to start to practice breathing correctly. You may then apply this concept to other positions such as sitting, standing, walking and during exercise.
Here is a great video demostrating some basic and advanced breathing exercises:
If you are experiencing any issues with your low back, mid-back, neck or shoulders then it makes sense to see one of our physiotherapists so that they can determine what the best treatment plan for you would be. This may include retraining your breathing patterns and teaching you breathing exercises in addition to other treatment strategies.
Book an appointment today with one of our physiotherapy specialists. Contact us at 416-777-999. All of our physios stay current with the research and are leaders in the industry-you are in excellent hands at Rebalance!