Is your way of breathing causing your neck pain?

How should you breath?

"Correct" diaphragmatic breathing
“Correct” diaphragmatic breathing

The connection between dysfunctional breathing and neck pain is straightforward:

If the diaphragm is unable do its job well, muscles in the upper chest and neck, (your accessory breathing muscles), try to take over.

As their group name of “Accessory Breathing Muscles” suggests they aren’t built for routine respiration, they will exhaust and eventually injure themselves if overused.

 

The Scalenes - part of the accessory breathing muscle group.
The Scalenes – part of the accessory breathing muscle group.

This is incredibly common – too many patients try to inhale by lifting their upper rib cage with their accessory muscles. Most are able to stop doing so when they put their mind to it, but easily slip back into the habit.

As you can see above – the contrast in muscle size and their potential effect on the ribcage between the diaphragm and scalenes is huge.

So why wouldn’t you use your Diaphragm properly?

There are two main reasons for BAD BREATHING, and I’m certain you’ll have heard of them before:

NUMBER 1: Sitting / slumping all day long! Slumping compresses your abdomen making it difficult for your diaphragm to move down and fill your lungs.

NUMBER 2: Stress, activates your “fight or flight” response causing your accessory muscles to kick in.

This is a useful response when you need these muscles to increase your oxygen intake, for example when you are having an asthma attack or when you are exerting yourself.

However, it isn’t particularly useful if you are stressed day in day out, chronically over working these small, inefficient muscles.

How can this cause your neck pain?

As you can already see, the scalenes attach to the vertebrae in your neck. Like any other muscle in the body, if over used and fatigued it will tighten and become painful. If this happens this itself can cause your neck pain.

It can also cause the upper ribs to become raised and restricted, this can then compress some of the nerves that supply your arm, in turn causing pain, pins and needles or even numbness in the arm.

What should you do about it?

- Sit up

- Breath deep into your abdomen

- Relax your neck and shoulders

- Take time to de-stress, have some time for yourself without the stresses of everyday life getting in the way.

Been like this for too long?

Most of the time, breathing badly is a way of life – HABIT, and you will have been doing it for a VERY long time. Because of this you might need a bit of help alongside changing your breathing habits. Your accessory muscles will need help to relax and your neck is likely to be quite stiff and tight. Osteopathy will help to relax these chronically tight muscles and make your neck and ribs move more freely again.

Then it’s up to you to keep breathing efficiently to stop it all happening again!

GOT A QUESTION?

Find me on Facebook and ask! https://www.facebook.com/LakeViewOsteopathy 

Happy to help :-)

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