Is Your Faulty Breathing the Key to your Tight Neck, Shoulders, and Stress?

Is Your Faulty Breathing the Key to your Tight Neck, Shoulders, and Stress?

10th March 2024 Uncategorised 0

 When was the last time you paid attention to the way that you are breathing? Are you breathing fast, shallow and in your chest? Or are you drawing slow deep breaths down into your belly? Did you know that the way that your breath can influence common musculoskeletal conditions such as tight shoulders, neck pain, chest pain, shortness of breath and chronic stress?

Breathing’s Ancient Roots:

Breathing is not merely an automatic physiological process; it holds a rich history deeply intertwined with various cultures and spiritual practices. From ancient yogic traditions to mindfulness techniques, civilizations and cultures across the globe and through time have recognized the significance of breath as a bridge between the body and the mind. Breathing straddles the conscious and subconscious aspects of the brain as it can be left on auto-pilot or manually controlled unlike most other bodily functions.

Some practices you may have heard of that emphasise breathwork as a core part of their system include:

·         Pranayama or yoga

·         Buddhism

·         Qi Gong (Tai chi)

·         Kung Fu (among other martial arts)

·         Mindful Meditation

·         Wim Hoff Method

The common thread between all these practices is the belief that intentional breathing can harmonize the body, mind, and spirit.

Breathing and Stress: The Therapeutic Connection

Stress manifests not only in our minds but also in our bodies. As Practitioners, we witness firsthand the impact of stress on musculoskeletal health. Breathing, when approached with therapeutic intent, becomes a powerful ally in addressing the physical manifestations of stress.

Research underscores the role of intentional breathing in activating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system – a key player in promoting relaxation and mitigating stress-related tension. By incorporating therapeutic breathing exercises into our treatment plans, we empower our patients to actively participate in their journey to stress relief and enhanced physical well-being. Luckily, adjusting your breathing can be done almost anywhere and anytime!

Chest Breathing Vs Diaphragmatic Breathing:

It is important to know the part of your torso you are breathing into in order to understand the state of your nervous system. When we are completely relaxed, we tend to breath like a sleeping baby, with our abdomen or gut slowly rising and falling. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. The opposite to this is when we are suddenly surprised and breath up into our chest with the rib cage expanding before the abdomen. This is called chest breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system or the “Rest and Digest” state. This is good for lowering stress and tension across the whole body. Chest breathing is associated with the Sympathetic or “Fight and Flight” function of the body and increases cortisol, heart rate and tenses the body ready for danger.

Normally we need a little of both of these depending on the situation but often we come across individuals in the clinic that are stuck in the “fight or flight” state, evident by their chest breathing. These patients often exhibit an underactive diaphragm muscle which is meant to pull the lungs down, and overactive secondary breathing muscles which mostly connect the upper rib cage to your neck and pull the lungs up. This causes issues as the diaphragm is by far the biggest breathing muscle and when the smaller muscles need to step in for such a long time additional problems arise such as upper spine, neck and rib joint issues. We would of course address each of these problem areas in these patients but instructions about mindful breathing go a long way in addressing the root cause of the tension and achieve faster and longer lasting results.

How to Breathe with the Diaphragm:

1.    Mindful Awareness: Begin by bringing conscious attention to your breath. Observe its natural rhythm without judgment. Simply notice the ebb and flow. If you’re not used to this laying down and closing your eyes can help.

2.    Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen just over or below your navel (belly button). Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen hand to rise before the chest hand. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your chest hand lower before your abdomen hand.

Remember; inhale = navel then chest, exhale = chest then navel.

3.    Counted Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts. Adjust the counts based on your comfort, gradually working towards extending the duration. This technique encourages a balanced and controlled breath.

4.    Pause and Reflect: Take short breaks throughout the day to pause and focus on your breath. These moments of stillness can be transformative, offering clarity and a renewed sense of calm.

If you’re struggling to identify and get on top of your breathing yourself, come let one of our practitioners put you on the right track in clinic.

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