Note To Self….Just Breathe
Often times when patients come to me with neck pain, headaches or jaw pain the first thing we talk about and learn how to do is the simple thing we learned as a baby as we were born: BREATHE. Somehow along the way many of us forget how to do this very important thing. Of course we are still breathing, but many times we are not doing it properly. This especially occurs when we are in pain or stressed. Chronic stress and pain can cause us to compensate using incorrect muscles that our bodies then learn as being the correct way to inhale and exhale or breathe. In fact, these poor breathing patterns can then lead to more pain and dysfunction creating a cycle of ongoing pain and tension.
So how should we breathe?
We need to learn how to move our diaphragm properly. Our diaphragm is a huge double-domed shaped muscle that sits in our chest. It attaches to our breast bone, ribs, and all the way down to the front of the spine. As you inhale, the ribs expand outward, your stomach should rise and your back arches slightly. As you exhale, your back sinks as your breath out, your stomach drops and ribs collapse.
Key things to practice when retraining the diaphragm to breathe:
- Lie on your back with your hands resting on the top of your stomach so that you can feel the bottom ribs.
- Inhale through your nose when possible to filter air.
- Feel your stomach rise as your entire chest cavity fills and your ribs expand.
- Exhale through your mouth as your stomach drops, your back sinks, and your ribs collapse.
- Exhale twice as long as you inhale to recruit the abdominals to compress.
- Pause after each exhale to help retrain the nervous system and learn your new range of exhalation motion.
Once you have learned the proper technique laying down you can perform this in any position and should do it several times per day in order to properly retrain your body how to breathe!
If you’re having any troubles or have questions feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.