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Sore Neck, Headaches, Fatigue? … It Could Be How You Breathe

It’s important to understand that there is a correct way to breathe yet clinically I have learnt that few people actually breathe properly. The mere notion that we don’t breathe correctly seems ludicrous especially considering that it is a necessity for survival. To me, it’s a sign of how we sometimes get so caught up in the busyness of life that we forget about ourselves. So let’s pay your body some much-needed attention and start focusing on your breathing…

Take a deep breath in.

Now stop for a second and take notice… Did you breathe in through your mouth or through your nose?

Your body is designed to breathe in through your nose because the lining of your nose is covered with cilia that help to warm and filter out bacteria and viruses from the air you breathe in thereby reducing the number of bugs you’re exposed to.

Now grab a measuring tape and wrap it around your chest. Take a deep breath in and notice the measurement and then breathe out as much as you can and note the measurement.

Your chest should be able to expand 5-8 cm

Your chest should be able to expand 5-8 cm

The difference should be at least 5 – 8cm (2-3 inches). If your chest doesn’t expand more than 5 cm it definitely indicates that you are not breathing properly. This means that you are lifting your chest up and down to breathe rather than expand your chest outwards to breathe. When you do this you breathe using the muscles at the front of your neck that connects to the upper ribs.

The effect of using your front neck muscles to breathe is four-fold:

1) The front neck muscles become over-tight and they pull your head forward putting extra strain on your neck and shoulders

2) The further your head is pulled forward the less deep breath you can take (Go on try it! Stick your head forward and try to take a deep breath)

3) Through disuse and increased muscle tightness the joints where the front of your ribs connect to the sternum (or breastbone) become stiff requiring more energy to move the ribs to breathe properly and less leftover energy for you.

- 4) A lack of movement in the upper ribs results in reduced stimulation to the breathing centre of your brain. This is because the upper 6 ribs provide the main sensory stimulation to the part of the brain that controls the rate and depth of our breathing (pontomedullary respiratory centre).

If you don’t breathe properly you lower the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood and severely limit your quality of life. Poor circulation, headaches, fatigue and various aches and pains are some of the everyday symptoms caused or aggravated by poor breathing.

So what are the four most important things you can do right now to improve your breathing?

1) Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Work with a chiropractor to improve the alignment, posture and strength of your neck and upper back so you don’t hunch forward.

2) Focus on breathing in through your nose, which also helps you to expand your chest outwards. It is especially effective if you breathe in through your nose when exercising.

3) Slow your breaths. Focus on long breaths out.

4) Get more flexibility in your ribs. Sometimes your ribs have become stiff or stuck where they connect to the spine and where they connect to the sternum (breastbone) because of poor posture or postural misalignments. That’s where some brilliant chiropractic adjustments can quite dramatically improve the flexibility of your rib cage in a matter of seconds.

So make sure you go and see your local chiropractor who can help you improve your breathing. It may be the missing link to a variety of health conditions.


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