Deep, Diaphragmatic Breathing: Why is it so important?!

Not only is breathing essential for life itself, the way we breathe can have a major effect on our musculoskeletal system.


Did you know that breathing involves over 146 joints in your body moving together?

That’s amazing when you think that there are 360 joints in total. Breathing plays a major role in many mechanisms of life as it brings oxygen from the environment to our tissues and carries carbon dioxide out. Osteopaths believe that poor breathing techniques can limit our body’s self-healing properties as well as limiting our ability to relax. When you are experiencing stress, you can overuse your neck and shoulder muscles instead of activating your diaphragm. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing techniques can be utilised to encourage our parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn helps us to relax and breathe easier.

Below is an example of an exercise that we at Total Balance love to give our patients.

Step 1.
Place your pillow on the floorRelaxing stretch with deep breathing (using foam roller)
Step 2.
Roll up a nice thick towel (beach/bath) and place it perpendicular to the pillow
Step 3.
Lie down with your head resting on the pillow and your spine lying longitudinally along the towel
Step 4.
Bend you knees up and open your arms out wide
Step 5.
Take deep breaths in and out of your tummy and lower ribs

An alternative to the towel is lying on a long foam roller (make sure that the foam roller is long enough that it supports your head and pelvis).

This exercise is great for relaxation. It is aimed at opening up your chest, stretching out through your pec/chest muscles and expanding through your rib cage, whilst also stimulating the part of your nervous system that controls relaxation. If you have trouble with getting down and up from the floor, a great alternative is to practice this exercise on your bed instead!


Another exercise to stimulate diaphragmatic breathing without needing any equipment is this one:

Take 10 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Make sure you are breathing deep into your abdomen, not just into your chest
Inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 10 seconds, and exhale for 10 seconds
Try and do this 3 times a day, every day

If you are lying down while doing this, place one hand gently on your abdomen, the other on your chest, and feel the rise and fall with every breath.


Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to help:

  • Decrease stress
  • Improve oxygen exchange
  • Slow your heart rate
  • Stabilise blood pressure
  • Patients who suffer from COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) breath easier


There are multiple techniques Osteopath’s can employ to improve your quality of breathing. These include treatments that aim to improve your rib cage expansion or decrease muscular tension.

Next time you’re in to see one of our Osteopaths, make sure you ask us about your breathing and if there are any other tips and tricks we can provide you with!

Dr. Megan Brooks (Osteopath) at Total Balance Healthcare

Disclaimer: This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Any other questions not answered here? Get in touch with us!

Phone:  (03) 97738085



Nidich, S., Rainforth, M., Haaga, D., Hagelin, J., Salerno, J., Travis, F., Tanner, M., Gaylord-King, C., Grosswald, S. and Schneider, R., 2009. A Randomized Controlled Trial on Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Blood Pressure, Psychological Distress, and Coping in Young Adults. American Journal of Hypertension, 22(12), pp.1326-1331.

Russo, M., Santarelli, D. and O’Rourke, D., 2017. The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe, 13(4), pp.298-309.

Ubolnuar, N., Tantisuwat, A., Thaveeratitham, P., Lertmaharit, S., Kruapanich, C. and Mathiyakom, W., 2019. Effects of Breathing Exercises in Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, 43(4), pp.509-523.

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