The Health Benefits Of Breathing Correctly

How the way you breathe can influence your symptoms.

Everyone automatically breathes. It is something we must do every day and it’s something you normally do not have to think about. But did you know that the way you breathe can have an influence on your pain symptoms, movement and energy levels.

Let me explain by asking you a few questions!

  • Do you normally breathe through your mouth or through your nose?
  • Do you sigh a lot?
  • Do you take big gulps of air between sentences?
  • Do you wake up feeling refreshed or tired and sluggish?
  • Do you suffer a lot with either neck pain, low back pain, constantly tight hamstrings or tight calves?

If you are answering yes to some of these questions, then you may be using an inefficient breathing pattern.

Here are some reasons why the way you breathe is important.

  1. If you ‘over – breathe’ or breathe excessively through your mouth, then you will more than likely have a breathing pattern in which you regularly use your chest to rise and expand to take in air. This, over time, will affect your posture and you will be constantly using your neck and  back muscles when you breathe. These muscles will get tired and stiff, which will restrict your movement and eventually lead to you experiencing discomfort and possibly pain. Often, poor breathing patterns can be a factor in people who have back and neck pain.
  2. The diaphragm is a key muscle we use when breathing and like every muscle in your body, it can get stiff and loose some range of movement, if not used effectively. One main reason for this, is if someone is constantly  breathing through their mouth and overusing their chest. Restoring mobility in your diaphragm can have a big influence on your overall body movement.
  3. Mouth breathing, or heavy breathing is associated with your ‘fight or flight’ response. Imagine that when you get a fright you gasp and take in a big gulf of air. When your body is in ‘fight or flight’ it prepares your body for action by releasing adrenaline and cortisol among other hormones. In the short term these are fine, but long term they will irritate tissues and cause stiffness and can lead to pain. If you wake up really achy and stiff in the morning, then breathing heavily through your mouth while you sleep, may be a factor.
  4. When you breath through your mouth the tendency is to take quicker, shallower breaths. This combined with a restriction and loss of movement in your diaphragm muscle means that the air you breathe in does not get a chance to travel down to the lower  part of your lungs. The lower part of your lungs are rich in blood capillaries which can transport oxygen around your body and  remove waste products efficiently and effectively.

So, what can I do about this breathing issue that I never knew I had?

Taking Action.

To begin with, it is quite common for a lot people to display inefficient breathing habits. These habits may have been present for a long time (often since childhood), and the person is completely unaware of them. However, as stated earlier, the way you breathe can have an influence on back pain, neck pain, constantly tight hamstrings and restricted movement. So, what can be done about it.

To start with, you can learn to breathe through your nose again. This has many health benefits as it will force you to take longer and slower breaths and it filters and warms the air as it comes through your nose. If you struggle to breathe through your nose, then it worth getting it checked out by your GP to see if there is an obstruction blocking the airway.

After that, there are techniques and exercises you can do to regain control of your breath and movement of your diaphragm. I perform these with clients at my clinic on a weekly basis and often their rehab exercises will involve these movements.

Having an awareness of your breath before you go to sleep at night can have a big influence on the quality of your sleep. If you can calm down your breathing and get your body in the ‘rest and digest’ phase, it can lead to you an improved quality of sleep. This can be huge for long term pain suffers as it can mean waking up in the morning feeling more rested, with less stiffness and less pain.

Conclusion:

We breathe an average of 21,000 times per day. That is quite a lot and if you are performing a movement in an inefficient way, it is going to have an effect on you. If you think that you the way you breathe may be having an influence on your movement, pain symptoms or overall energy levels and would like to learn more, then call the clinic and I can advice you on this or get in touch by email at derek@midlandsphysicaltherapy.ie.

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