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.
Place your pillow on the floor
Roll up a nice thick towel (beach/bath) and place it perpendicular to the pillow
Lie down with your head resting on the pillow and your spine lying longitudinally along the towel
Bend you knees up and open your arms out wide
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, 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:
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Slowly take a deep breath in through your nose for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 6 seconds. Make sure you are breathing deep into your abdomen and lower ribs, not just into your chest.
Try and do this for 5-10 minutes.
You can do this seated or lying down. If lying down, place a pillow under your head and under your knees.
Diaphragmatic breathing may help to:
- Decrease stress
- Improve oxygen exchange
- Slow your heart rate
- Stabilise blood pressure
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
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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.