Breathing and Posture: The Connection - 04 Apr 2018
Breathing and Posture: The Connection
Posture can change breathing habits and poor breathing habits create muscle imbalances. These muscle imbalances can change the mechanics of the entire body. The diaphragm is a skeletal muscle that is designed to assist with moving air in and out of the thoracic cavity (ribcage). If you have poor posture your body will recruit alternate muscles to breathe and your body may become “patterned” in a habit forming way that may lead to pain when you do simple activities.
How does this poor posturing happen?
- Completing repetitive motions at work or poor body mechanics
- Lifestyle habits (i.e. smoking)
- Decreased flexibility or joint stiffness
- Compensation from injury or surgery
Tell me about the ribs
The ribcage is designed to rotate and shift as we walk and breathe just like the pelvis should. When we alter our breathing or walking patterns, we can create an undesirable “static” body posture. This leads to additional stiffness and muscular compensation, which may produce pain. Below is an image that shows a sitting posture that may develop with these compensations. This position shows an overly extended back and a puffed out the chest, which decreases the stability in the core and increases the stress on the lower back.
“The shin bone is connected to the knee bone”
Like that childhood song goes, (“the shin bone is connected to the knee bone”) everything is connected. Did you know that one of the “hip flexor” muscles actually connects to the diaphragm? If you are aware of both structures you can make changes in their position. Both of these structures also attach to the spine. A shortened hip flexor muscle creates a flattened diaphragm, which increases demand on the lumbar spine. This is one source of chronic back pain. This picture shows the rotation of the pelvis and the effect of the spine.
A closer look at the pelvis
Tight hip flexors have been accused of being a primary cause of lower back pain. Weakness in gluts and lower extremity issues may also be factors, but one of the biggest driving forces is the result of poor exhalation and rib movement. This leads us back to the rib mobility and the idea that stretching out hip flexors will NOT resolve your problem.
Here is what you SHOULD do
Breathing can play a huge role in changing the hip flexor position, which will correct the position of the pelvis.
The proper breathing technique should focus on breathing like a baby. Have you ever watched a baby breathe? They allow their belly to rise, then their chest.
Focus on expanding the abdomen first, then the chest. Do not use your neck or back. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest, first assess how you breathe then imagine there is a balloon in your abdomen you are trying to fill with air. Bring in the air through your nose and out through your mouth. You may try this sitting but preferred lying down to increase comfort and feedback.
Some benefits of proper breathing
Benefits of belly breathing include improved profusion to body, increasing usage of diaphragm to keep it from becoming dormant, decreases the chance for neck, back and shoulder pain. In fact, “we can easily disrupt the pH balance with 2-3 deep breaths. pH will rise from 7.4 to 7.5 or CO2 will fall from a normal 40 to 30 or 25 in less than 30 seconds.” Gilbert, C Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy, Jul 98.
If this was helpful or you want more information on how to prevent pain, injury or stiffness call
Deanna Elliott at Centered Physical Therapy