Are You Taking 23,000 Incorrect Breaths A Day?

Do you suffer from chronic neck, shoulder, or low back pain?

If so, have you paid attention to how you breathe? 

As you’re reading this blog, do a simple exercise.  Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, and take a deep breath in.  If the hand on your chest moved upward and the one on your belly doesn't move at all, you are probably not breathing as efficient as you can.

Did you know you take more than 23,000 breathes a day?

Can you just imagine what it is doing to your body if they are less than optimal? 

As a father to a 20 month old, it’s amazing to see my daughter breathe perfectly without being taught.  Her stomach gently rises up as she uses her diaphragm to draw air into her lungs.  Her chest doesn’t initiate the breath and her neck is completely relaxed. 

Somewhere along the way, we deviate from this natural way of breathing with our diaphragm.  When we use or diaphragm to breathe, we exert pressure on our abdominal cavity that helps provide postural and functional stability; just like the air inside a balloon provides structure and support.

When you are a chest dominant breather, it puts your body in a relative "fight or flight" sympathetic state. Imagine if you are scared or late to work, can you picture how your breathing patterns is short, rapid, incomplete and stressful? 

Now imagine you are getting a relaxing massage and picture how calm your body and breathing are. Now you are in a parasympathetic state. 

Diaphragmatic breathing can also indirectly decrease neck and shoulder pain.  When you breathe deeply, the lungs and ribs expand, which moves or “stretches” the joint where the ribs meet the spine in the upper back (costovertebral joint).  This can improve thoracic mobility and improve posture by allowing the head and shoulders to become more aligned.

With neck, shoulder, or low back pain, there are other factors that need to be addressed but learning to breathe correctly can positively improve one’s outcome for recovery.

Dr. Raymond Shing, Physical Therapist