Learning to Breathe

Did you know that the average person breathes 16 times per minute? So, over the course of a year, the average person takes over 8 million breaths! We are born with the innate ability to breathe, meaning we do not need to be taught. However, as we get older we can form some bad habits with our breathing.

With a normal inhale, we take air in which fills the lungs from the base upwards. While a muscle that sits beneath them, called the diaphragm, pulls up and the muscles between the ribs, called the intercostals, relax. As we exhale, the diaphragm and intercostals contract to squeeze on the lungs and force air out. There is normally a pause between each inhale and exhale to allow for oxygen and carbon dioxide transfer.

There are a number of things that can go wrong, such as:
  • Accessory breathing – Where a person only takes air into the upper part of their lungs. The muscles attached to the upper ribs get tight. This is because they have to pull on the ribs to make space for the lungs.
  • Paradoxical breathing – Normally when a person takes a breath in, their abdomen pushes out then pulls back as they breathe out. In paradoxical breathing, this is the other way around. It suggests a problem with the function of the diaphragm.
  • Hyperventilation – Increased speed in breathing, causing more of an exhale than an inhale. This could be caused by multiple conditions and can be made worse with stress.

Sometimes poor posture can attribute to poor breathing. This is often seen in desk-based workers. When sat and leaning forward, as is common when people work at a desk, there is a decreased lung capacity. Adding stress to this can also make the problem worse, causing any skeletal muscles involved in the respiration process to tighten.

Our practitioners at Body Consultancy understand the importance of healthy breathing and the impact that issues can have on other complaints that patients see us with. This is why we will often look at breathing function with new patients, to provide an overall look at your musculoskeletal health, as opposed to only looking at where the pain is.

If you have any complaints that you would like to see one of our practitioners about, contact us on 01425 473093, to book in a free 15 minute consultation.

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