Why is breathing so important?
The image to the right shows the intrinsic core made up of the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, multifidus and pelvic floor. This is the powerhouse of the body, the driver and vital in optimal spinal function. When breathing efficiently pressure should be built in this cylinder so power can be dissipated to the limbs. For pressure to be built in this cylinder the diaphragm has to drop down towards the pelvic floor, this is known as belly breathing. If this doesn’t happen then power has to be built elsewhere in order to maintain stabilisation within the system, often resulting in pain and poor movement.
How can breathing contribute to your pain?
Fear and pain alter breathing patterns. Those suffering from long term injuries will hold their breath for stabilisation in anticipation of pain whilst moving. This is quite often a subconscious tactic, but next time you see someone go through something they know is going to hurt, observe their breathing, do they begin to breathe through their chest? Do they take more shallow breaths? Or do they hold their breath? A natural breathing response to physical distress is a sharp intake of breath followed by bracing of the core, this reaction stops the diaphragm dropping towards the pelvic floor to build core pressure and as stated above this alters spinal mechanics. Now imagine you are aching constantly and every step you take you fear more pain, that can be thousands of times daily where you are not allowing your core to build pressure and stabilise your spine.
The following are scenarios I see the most in clinic:
- Back pain because the thoracolumbar fascia (pictured below) has become very tight. This fascia is a band of connective tissue linking shoulder to the opposite buttock and has direct links to the diaphragm. This free flowing lynchpin in rotational movement has to get tighter and tighter for the body to maintain stabilisation when the diaphragm cannot drop toward the pelvic floor and build core pressure thus limiting rotation and altering movement patterns. This can cause lower back, neck and shoulder pain.
- Hip joints becoming ‘jammed’ as a result of improper stability from the core. This often alters pelvic range of motion and can lead to the pelvic floor becoming overburdened resulting in groin, knee, back and neck pain to name a few.
Why might your breathing be inefficient?
There are many reasons, but here are some signs that you may be in need of a diaphragm reset:
- You have suffered from asthma, acid reflux or continuing allergies which alter your breathing.
- You train with heavy weights, lift heavy objects and hold your breath for stabilisation whilst doing so (one of my mentors Perry Nickelston says when it comes to function what is under the hood is far more important than the aesthetics).
- You suffer from poor circulation to your hands and feet.
- You have suffered from a stroke, blood clots or sleep apnea.
- Your ribcage ‘flares’ as you lie on your back or you struggle to draw your belly button to your spine when led on your back.
What can be done to improve your breathing?
No matter who you are, how old you are, pain free or long term agony, you need breathing to be your friend NOT your enemy. Now don’t get me wrong breathing drills alone will not resolve movement issues, however breathing drills alongside a great corrective exercise program and bingo you’re on to a winner. The following breathing exercise is one I use with every client alongside their corrective exercises:
- Lie in a relaxed position on your back, try and become as relaxed as possible, if this means closing your eyes then do so.
- Keep your mouth closed and bring your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
- Breathe in through your nose trying to fill up your belly. We want 360 doming of your belly; this means we want your belly to fill out to sides as well as the front and back.
- Exhale through your nose; make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation.
- Attempt this breathing drill for five minutes a day at first and build up. To begin with it will feel strange and uncomfortable but give it time and the results will be worthwhile.
If you’re suffering in pain, wish to know more about the importance of breathing or want to improve your movement / running technique then contact Ben Fedrick Injury Therapy today: