Breathe better

By Dr Guy Ashburner | October 29, 2018

Breathe better

“Osteopathy is based on the perfection of Nature’s work. When all parts of the human body are in line we have health. When they are not the effect is disease.” Dr.A.T. Still - Osteopathy Research and Practice

Whether due to allergies or chronic issues, such as asthma, bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), breathing issues can reduce patients’ quality of life. There are different causes and reasons for breathing problems.

Poor posture, physical stiffness, tense shoulders, neck or back pain can lead to breathing problems, and at the same time, breathing problems can actually cause poor posture, neck or back pain. This can disturb the natural balance of the body and are often correlated with other health issues including: Poor digestion; Fatigue; Tension headaches. Many people have sedentary lifestyles. A posture often seen during sitting is the head forward, with rounded shoulders and a slightly caved in chest. This posture stops the rib cage opening up and makes the mid back area tight and often painful. Breathing problems come in a variety of forms depending on the patient. For example, muscles in the ribs, upper chest, and neck all support breathing. Rapid and shallow breaths put additional burden on these muscles. This is often caused by stress.

In order for the rest of the body to function optimally, the spine must have normal mobility and natural postural curvature. Nerves in the body, that supply your internal organs, start in your spinal column and branch out into the body. Because of the location of the upper back (thoracic) nerves and the other parts of the body that they help control, if there is a misalignment within the spine, the thoracic nerves can be negatively impacted. Common results related to mobility and unnatural posture of the spine include problems with the lungs expanding and contracting (or inhaling and exhaling). As well, if the thoracic nerves become pinched or congested, the result will almost definitely be some type of breathing issue. Some people breathe only with the upper ribs, which means that they are not fully lowering the diaphragm and expanding the lungs and so are not making the full use of their lung capacity. This kind of shallow breathing is how you may breathe if you feel anxious or depressed, it can also induce stress and tension; these are contributory factors in many illnesses and diseases.

In Osteopathic treatment, patients often present with pain, dysfunction or mobility issues. Patients suffering from back or neck pain sometimes report some type of breathing problem. An osteopath will take a full medical history, provide a thorough evaluation, and discuss treatment options with you. Osteopathic care may be able to reduce respiratory problems through spinal manipulative therapy by reducing the effect that these misalignments and abnormalities have on the nervous system. Mobilizing and articulating the spine can also increase the mobility of the thoracic cage, mobilize the ribs, and enhance blood flow in the lungs. Relaxing and reducing tension in the respiratory muscles freeing, muscular and fascial restrictions of the ribs and spine, improving lymphatic drainage from the lungs and enabling you to take deeper breaths and use oxygen more effectively. This is useful for asthmatics and those with breathing difficulties and respiratory conditions.

Osteopaths will use a variety of hands on techniques, including soft tissue stretching and massage, myofascial release, cranial osteopathy along with articulation and mobilisation of the joints. Osteopaths work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals, with the long term aim of improving the person’s quality of life and helping to reduce the negative effects of breathing conditions. Osteopaths can also advise you on breathing and how to maintain a healthy posture which in turn is essential for healthy breathing.

View a list of common complains that Osteopathy can assist with

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