Healthy Breathing and Physiotherapy

By Health Web | March 22, 2023

Healthy Breathing and Physiotherapy

Breathing is our life force, but how often do we spend any time thinking about this vital process. Do we know how poor breathing can create pain that may eventually require physiotherapy?

A good breathing pattern uses the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity. The diaphragm is also a core stabilising muscle of the trunk.

Healthy breathing has depth, fullness and freedom. The cycle of in and out breaths are not controlled. They happen naturally. The abdominal muscles relax with a diaphragmatic in breath, allowing the belly to become round. On the breath out, the diaphragm relaxes and the belly flattens.

Unhealthy breathing is shallow, where upper chest movement takes over from diaphragmatic movement.

Ineffective breathing patterns have become a part of our busy, modern life styles. Constant demands and daily stresses encourage our primitive fight-flight mechanism to be permanently switched on.

This mechanism is necessary when we are exposed to a threat or perceive danger. Our human body responds to the stress with:

  • Shallower breathing
  • Breath holding
  • Faster breathing pace

Living with ineffective breathing patterns is energy sapping. Upper chest breathing and breath holding encourage the wrong muscle systems to be working. This leads to musculoskeletal changes in the neck, ribcage, shoulders, mid back, low back, and pelvis.

Over time the musculoskeletal changes to muscles, joints and nerves of the upper trunk, spine and pelvis promote poor posture and this leads to weakness and pain in different parts of the body.

Therefore, many conditions presenting for physiotherapy, may have unhealthy breathing patterns being one of the causes creating or adding to the problem.

Physiotherapists working in women’s health often need to include breathing awareness into their treatment program for some of the following conditions:

  • Headache, neck and shoulder pain
  • Pelvic floor muscle weakness, urinary stress incontinence and prolapse
  • Rib and mid back pain
  • Back and sacroiliac joint pain
  • Hip and buttock pain
  • Pelvic pain

A Physiotherapist can provide you with proactive treatment, strategies and advice where healthier breathing patterns may be an important option for you.