Find yourself frequently yawning? Even when you’re well rested? Do you regularly experience low back pain that is always paired with a tight neck? Do you smoke? Do you have asthma? Are you someone who sucks in their tummy in an effort to look skinnier? (Be honest not) These questions, while perhaps not seeming relevant in a discussion about low back pain are important ones!
First a quick lesson on what breathing is and why we should care. Respiration is a vital process, and one we do a lot (averaging between 15,000-20,000 times a day). This process relies on the lungs which supply the body with oxygen. The process also requires many different muscles, and they rely upon a set pattern to work together to allow us to breath. Some muscles tighten up, while others relax- this allows us to make room in the chest for the lungs to work. Of those muscles the most important for our purposes a muscle called the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large muscle that goes from the bottom of the rib cage to the spine and separates your chest from the abdomen. When we breathe in, the diaphragm lowers making room for the lungs to expand, and when we breathe out it pushes upwards forcing air out.
Pretty neat system.
Done properly; deep breaths SHOULD push the diaphragm down which SHOULD push the belly outward- Belly Breathing. Now stop and look at the people near you… I’ll wait. Odds are when they breathe in you will see their chest and shoulders rise. This happens for many reasons (Respiratory illness, anxiety, or vanity to name a few) but many adults breathe using their chest and shoulders.
Breathing with the shoulders makes muscles mad. Muscles do not appreciate being over used, under used, or used improperly. Using shoulders to breath instead of the diaphragm develops a muscle pattern which causes pain. Using any muscle improperly 15,000 times a day is going to cause a problem.
- The shoulders and chest do all the work, which causes those muscles to become overworked and very tight.
- The diaphragm gets lazy from its time on vacation (Caribbean sounds good to me too), and stops working as well.
- With the diaphragm on vacation the core (abs and low back) also goes on vacation. With the core on vacation, the low back loses stability and is more easily injured!
Muscle vacations: Start out nice,but they’re never ready to return to work at the end.
This might sound like a rare problem, but numerous studies have found that patients with low back pain exhibit altered breathing mechanics (shoulder breathing). Altered breathing goes hand in hand with chronic low back and neck pain!
“Oh NO! What can I do about it?!”
Good question. Proper Chiropractic adjustments along with the necessary rehabilitation at home can move you into the right direction to have control over persistent pains. If this reminds you of anything you’ve been struggling with, it can certainly be worth your time to have it evaluated.
 Kolar. P. “Postural Function of the diaphragm in persons with and without chronic low back pain” Journal of Sports Phys Ther. (2012)
2 Respiratory Cycle Image provided by http://www.clipart.dk.co.uk/457/subject/Biology/Breathing