Just Breathe

In my opening blog I encouraged you to just move.  Today I’m going to peel it back a bit and tell you that on the most basic level the most important thing you can do is breathe properly.  We breathe on the average around 20,000 times per day.  If we don’t do it right there are numerous consequences.

Your diaphragm is your major muscle of inhalation.  It serves another vital function as a stabilizer of the spine.  How does this work you might ask.  If you look at an anatomy chart there are lots of muscles posterior to the spine but none in front of the spine.  So how do you maintain stability in front of your spine?  This is done by intra-abdominal pressure, the dance between your muscles of inhalation, primarily your diaphragm and your muscles of exhalation, largely your abdominal wall muscles.

So poor breathing overuses our helper breathing muscles, such as our scalenes and upper traps, typically over-tight muscles in the neck.  Overusing these muscles several thousand times a day make them extremely tight.  You can see this in its extreme in those people who appear to have steel cables running down the front and back of their neck.  These in turn can cause neck pain and entrapped nerves and in extreme cases herniated discs can be the result.

Another consequence of dysfunctional diaphragmatic breathing is low back pain due to poor spinal stability.  As we lose our anterior stability, through the above mentioned mechanism, our back muscles have to work extra hard to stabilize our spine.  Any number of spinal stabilizing muscles can become overworked and over-tight, and back pain follows.

Other consequences of dysfunctional or paradoxical breathing are acid reflux and high blood pressure.  The diaphragm has canals through which the esophagus and inferior vena cava travel and in cases of long term dysfunction these vessels can become constricted.  Obviously, a constricted diaphragm is not the only thing that can cause reflux or high blood pressure, but it can be a major contributor.

Poor breathing habits can be the cause of your back and neck pain, or can be the precursor of problems to come.  Correcting your breathing can be a simple solution that puts you on the road to recovery.

Here is a video on the diaphragm function.  Notice how the ribs are supposed to move during functional breathing.

So get checked by a professional to make sure your diaphragm is working optimally.