floor stretch

Not many people realize it, but the way you breathe can impact you from a musculoskeletal perspective. It can lead to neck pain, core stability issues, low back pain, and other issues.

From a trusted resource, ChiroUp, which provides many resources in its white paper on this topic.

“Patients with dysfunctional breathing may rely on the accessory muscles of breathing. Myofascial irritation may be found in the: upper trapezius, scalenes, levator scapulae, SCM and pectoral muscles.”

In medical literature, the term “Dysfunctional breathing” refers to a group of disorders including, paradoxical breathing (upper chest breathing), erratic breathing, breath holding, and breathing too deeply or erratically (hyperventilation syndrome). While these disorders can create significant oxygenation deprivation problems, the focus of this article will be on the biomechanical effects of poor breathing mechanics.

Paradoxical breathing, in which your breath is initiated from the upper chest instead of the diaphragm (abdomen) is very common in today’s society. Detecting and Correcting this breathing disorder is a vital first step in treating spine related issues, amongst other conditions.

Below is a simple test you can take yourself to see if you are a “Paradoxical Breather” and how to fix it.

  • Description: Breathing test to assess if you are a stomach breather or chest breather.
  • How to perform: Lay on a comfortable surface on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Take five normal deep breaths and take notice of your breathing.
Full body view of a young blond woman in Yoga exercises against white background with light shadow
  • Pass= 80% of breathing should come from the belly rising and falling, 20 % should come from the chest rising and falling.
  • Fail= Chest breathing is more dominant than the belly breathing and shoulders elevating towards the ears during inspiration.
  • 2 Corrections:
    • For chest breather: Place a light book over the stomach and focus on elevating and lowering it during inspiration and expiration.
    • Lay on back.
      • Push belly outward.
      • Pull belly button down towards the floor.
      • Repeat ten repetitions for two sets.

Here is a great video you can reference for proper breathing patterns initiated at the abdomen.

Breathing Evaluation