Without stating the obvious reason of without breathing we wouldn’t be alive. But the breathing system and our diaphragm is much much more than just that.
If your breathing is not normalised, then no other movement pattern can be (Hewitt 1980).
The diaphragm attaches/ connects to many parts of our body – Lumbar spine muscles including quadratus Lumborum (back) and Psoas muscle (front), the Phrenic nerve (which supplies also your neck or Cervical spine area), ribcage muscles and sternum.
As you Inhale – the ribcage elevates and extends out shortening the diaphragm and the pelvic floor lengthens (wee out) and expands our tummy (core muscles).
As you exhale – the ribcage rotates back inwards, lengthening the diaphragm and shortens (tightens the pelvic floor) and core muscles.
When we are in pain – physically or emotionally we lose the ability to lengthen our diaphragm. We resort to ‘fight or flight’ mode, increased heart rate, vasoconstriction, mouth breathing, increased respiratory rate and increased ventilatory volume. We revert to breathing through our mouth and begin to lose the optimum of rest and digest with our body and its tissues.
Excessive Inhalation – Muscles used:
- Calf muscles shorten (Achilles, plantar fascia, calf tightness, cramping, knee pain)
- Quadriceps shorten (causes arching in lower back, knee pain)
- Low back muscles tighten (Arch back – compress the spine, makes it difficult for ribcage to move freely IE running)
- Pelvic floor muscles lengthened (on permanent stretch becoming dysfunctional)
- Upper trapezius muscle shortens (tight neck, tension headaches, disruptive to normal shoulder mechanics)
- Gluteal, hamstrings, abdominals and deep neck flexor muscles are all lengthening and disengaged.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: when we feel our hamstrings are tight – majority of the time they are stretched long and tight and don’t have the capacity to recoil back in to a shortened position and engage and create a muscle motor output. Therefore stretching your hamstrings will not solve the issue in some cases.
Exhalation – muscles used:
- Pelvic floor shortens NATURALLY
- Trans Abdominus (core muscle) “sucks in” NATURALLY
- Gluteal Muscles shorten NATURALLY
- Hamstrings shorten NATURALLY
- Abdominals shorten NATURALLY
- Deep neck Flexors Shorten NATURALLY
- Hip and Shoulder Joints Range of Motion increases
- Less Compression on the Lumbar spine
Simple Exercises to begin in your Daily life:
- To begin nasal breathing, tongue to the roof of your mouth and lengthen your exhale as long as you can
- Generally, a ratio of 3:6 works
- Begin in static relaxed positions first, then try incorporating it in movement such as walking.
Your Chronic pain whether in your back, neck, shoulder can be intensified due to altered breathing patterns. So, you can see how powerful our breathing can be to alleviate pain symptoms/ tension within our body. Drop into one of our clinics now for a review of any chronic condition you may be suffering with and along with movement exercises, hands on techniques we will incorporate breathing exercises to fully benefit you through your injury.
Blog By Louise Holland (Physiotherapist)