Breathing is the most fundamental function of our bodies. From the day we are born to the day we die we are constantly breathing, so it is worthwhile to spend some time and see if you have correct breathing technique.

Correct breathing technique such as abdominal breathing can help promote wellbeing and also reduce physical pain and chronic disease. Often when someone is in pain they adopt shallow breathing patterns and sometimes hold their breath without even realising it. These unconscious, protective patterns for pain, can actually increase the level of pain and prolong injury or even create chronic disease. Several studies have shown that deep abdominal breathing using the diaphragm can help decrease pain and reduce chronic health issues.

What is Abdominal Breathing?
Abdominal breathing is a deep breathing technique, which involves taking a deep breath into your lungs and into your lower ribs to engage the diaphragm muscle. As you inhale, air should fill your abdomen to lower the diaphragm muscle and the ribs should expand laterally. The shoulders, neck and upper chest should all be relaxed during this breath.

The diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen, on inhalation this muscle should be pushed down. This movement increases pressure within the abdominal cavity, which stimulates particular receptors to activate the ‘rest and digest’ mode (parasympathetic nervous system). When the diaphragm is not used and the receptors fail to stimulate relaxation, which occurs with shallow breathing, the ‘fight and flight’ mode (sympathetic nervous system) is continuously activated. Prolonged activation of this system over stimulates the adrenal glands producing excess stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and inturn lowers the immune system.

Benefits of abdominal breathing:
– reduce tension and anxiety
– strengthen immune system
– lower blood pressure
– increases metabolism and aids in digestion/weight loss
– decrease stress levels
– prevent chronic disease
– improves lymphatic drainage from lungs
– increases oxygenation of the blood
– promotes feelings of wellbeing and relaxation

Conditions related to poor breathing technique:
– asthma
– sleep apnoea
– chronic fatigue syndrome
– allergies/sinusitis
– eczema
– chronic neck or back problems
– stress/anxiety
– chest pain
– digestive problems
– spinal dysfunction
– chronic spinal restrictions

More often then not there are several causing factors for the conditions mentioned above. While poor breathing technique is the focus here, any spinal dysfunctions that may be present in addition to the disorder can exacerbate it. The thoracic spine is integral with abdominal breathing and therefore any injury involving it or its attachments (lumbar and cervical spine) can prevent proper breathing technique. It is worthwhile being assessed by one of our chiropractors at Neurohealth Chiropractic to help correct any restrictions within the spine that can prevent good breathing technique.

Abdominal breathing exercise:
1. Lay on your back with your knees slightly bent and feet flat on the floor
2. Place the web space (between your index and thumb) of your hand around the sides of your lower ribs
3. Take a deep slow breath in through your nose, filling your ribs and abdomen from the bottom up, your hands should get pushed apart
4. Breathe out though your mouth feeling your hands come back together.
5. After a few breaths, place one of your hands on the upper chest. Continue the exercise and the hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
6. Do this for 10mins each day then try sitting/standing.

Make sure you are in a comfortable position and you are taking normal sized breaths. Once you become comfortable with this exercise while lying, try this in a seated position then standing and then walking. The more you practice this, the more you become used to the technique and the correct breathing technique can then be adapted into your everyday life.

Things to avoid:
– don’t let the tummy push out or distend
– avoid letting the upper chest rise
– avoid allowing your shoulders to lift up towards your ears.

Next time you feel stressed or anxious, take a minute to focus on your breathing. Just a few deep breaths will help; every slow deep breath is making you healthier, happier and more relaxed.

If you would like more information or would like to book an appointment at Neurohealth Chiropractic – please call the clinic on 9905 9099 or email us or fill in the contact form from our website

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