Breathing Treatment is a
Big Part of Beating Back Pain
A properly structured breathing treatment begins with the initial evaluation of specific faulty patterns. Breathing with normal respiratory mechanics has a potent role in the neuromusculoskeletal system.
The way you breathe plays a key role in both posture and spinal stabilization. Faulty breathing mechanics can actually hinder a chiropractic doctor’s treatment, which in turn prevents you from getting out of pain. Respiration must first be functioning normally, before any other problems in the body can be effectively corrected.
The evaluation of respiratory mechanics (i.e. your breathing pattern) should be a routine part of every physical examination.
This is especially important in patients with chronic cervical symptoms, stress-related conditions (including high blood pressure), and delayed response to previous treatment. I will describe how the doctor will identify faulty breathing patterns and how to correct them using breathing treatment.
“If breathing is not normalized- no other movement pattern can be.”
~Karel Lewit, M.D.
We are hardly aware of our breathing under normal circumstances. Our breathing patterns can be affected by physical, chemical, or emotional demands and should return to normal relaxed breathing patterns once the demand is over.
What is actually happening when we breathe? At its most basic level, respiration allows us to take oxygen (O2) from inhaled air and excrete carbon dioxide (CO2) with exhaled air.
Primary muscles responsible for respiration:
- diaphragm ( separating the lungs from the stomach), intercostal muscles ( between ribs), scalenes ( neck muscles), transverse abdominus (abdominal muscle), muscles of the pelvic floor (help hold your “pee”), and deep muscles of the spine.
- Since so many muscles are involved in the way you breathe, you can see how it is so important in many of the activities we do.
The proper breathing mechanics:
- Inspiration: The diaphragm moves downward creating room for the lungs to expand. The abdomen and rib cage expand horizontally, and anterior-posterior. So imagine a balloon expanding in your stomach.
- Expiration: The reverse occurs as in inspiration. The diaphragm will now relax and rise. The abdomen is drawn inward toward the spine, and the ribs should move down and in. This allows the air to be “pushed out.”
Most people do not know how much of an affect breathing has on neck and back pain. The diaphragm plays a vital role in spinal stability, and when it’s function is compromised, the spine is inevitably affected.
In cases such as neck and back pain, there is muscle dysfunction. Along with common pain syndromes, it is very common to find abnormal breathing patterns.
Upper chest “lifting” is not normal during relaxed breathing. This faulty pattern of lifting “up” of the sternum (breastbone) vertically during inspiration, instead of widening in the horizontal plane, occurs because of over-activity in the scalenes, trapezius, and levator scapulae muscles. These muscles are located at the neck and top of your shoulders.
This is called “chest breathing.” This can impact the emotional and physical being of a person. When this becomes a chronic pattern, you can actually start to see deep grooves at the clavicles.
This can become faulty when the breath is held during expiration (breathing out) and there is not a full exhalation. The abdomen can also expand instead of being pulled in.
** The most important fault in respiration is the “chest breathing” or lifting up of the sternum. This can cause overstraining of the neck muscles and contribute to chronic neck pain. When this occurs it is very important to get the right breathing treatment.**
This is one of the most severe dysfunctions in breathing patterns. This is where the reverse occurs of normal breathing patterns. The abdomen actually comes in toward the spine during inspiration (breathing in), and expands out during expiration(breathing out).
Why does this happen?
- severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema)
- habit of holding the abdomen rigid to have the appearance of a flat stomach ( “sucking in”)
** It is not good to hold your stomach in during exercise or any time of the day! I know this is opposite of what most people have heard. It is important to practice abdominal bracing during exercise and physical activity. This can be taught by a trained clinician.**
Conditions of/or affected by Faulty Breathing Patterns to Perform Breathing Treatment:
- chronic sinus problems
- TMJ dysfunction
- Bad posture
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Hyperventilation syndromes/panic attacks
- Chronic fatigue
- An Increase in the kyphosis of the spine (“hunch-back”)
- An Increase in the lordosis of the low back (curve), resulting in low back dysfunction and pain.
How do you know if you have faulty breathing patterns??
The properly trained physician can very easily and accurately assess respiration using the following tools.
-thorough history of the patient
- watching the patient’s normal breathing patterns in various positions: seated or standing, lying on back, lying on stomach.
- The doctor will be looking at the movement of your ribcage and abdomen, while checking for any faulty patterns associated.
- The doctor will also palpate the ribcage to feel for movement
-Respiratory re-training exercises
- Correction of underlying causative factors
- The patient needs to work hard with the instructions given to them along with the care of the clinician. This has most likely been a chronic issue and will not go away over night.
Benefits of Breathing Treatment Retrainig:
- Improved core stability and loco-motor function
- Muscle relaxation
- Release of stress and tension
- Improved pain management
- Enhanced physical performance
- Increased energy and endurance
“To our ordinary consciousness, breathing only serves to maintain our body. But if we go beyond our mind, breathing can open up a completely new foundation for our life.”
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