Blog post by Lev Borukhov, PT, DPT
One of the most common causes on neck pain and thoracic spine discomfort is ineffective breathing patterns. To understand the reasoning behind this, we have to take a look at how your body uses muscles and skeletal structures to breath. First lets look at the diaphragm, the primary muscle of respiration.
The Diaphragm shown in the picture below is a parachute shaped muscle that attaches to the inside of your chest bone (sternum) and it goes all the way around your ribcage on both sides. As you inhale the diaphragm expands the chest, and pushes the organs that lie below it down into your belly. Exhalation happens passively as the muscle ascends back into the rib cage.
For one reason or another, a faulty breathing pattern can emerge. A faulty breathing patterns is when you’re not using your diaphragm as efficiently as you can to inhale. Many times your body will recruit the Sternocleidomastoid, Scalenes, Levator Scapulae, Pectoralis minor and major, Trapezius, and Rhoboid Major muscles to assist in expanding the rib cage. When we look at common neck pain patterns, we often see these muscles are tight, overly stretched, or painful. These are the same muscles that turn on when you’re working out or running and need to get more air in.
Learning how to breath better may take some of your neck pain away and even solve them for good. So how do you start?
1) Lay on your back. Make sure that your pelvis, rib cage and head are on the surface you’re laying on with only 1 pillow under your head. Put your feet on the wall or a stool so that your knees and hips are flexed 90 degrees.
2) Take a deep breath in through your nose, keep your mouth closed. As you inhale you want your belly, and ribcage to expand in 360 degrees. Meaning you should feel your rib cage pushing into what you’re laying on.
3) Exhale all the way through your mouth only. Say “Haaaaaaaaa” as you exhale and don’t purse your lips. Make sure your exhale time is at least double the inhale time. You should also feel your obliques contract, if you didn’t that means you have more air in there that you should exhale.