Posture, Breathing and Health

Faulty breathing behaviour is something we see frequently in clinic! It can be both the cause and effect of poor posture. Given breathing is something we really can’t avoid… well not for too long anyway… it is a very important aspect of your health, especially when dealing with spinal related disorders.

What is relaxed breathing and why is it important?

When we are relaxed and taking quiet breaths we should be doing this in and out of the nose and solely with the diaphragm. As the diaphragm contracts, it tightens and moves down towards the pelvis drawing air into the bottom of the lungs. As your diaphragm relaxes the elasticity in your tissues bounces back and the air is pushed out. This is a very energy efficient process using minimal effort.

What is the difference in ‘strained’ breathing?

Strained breathing occurs when we start taking shorter quicker breaths by contracting the muscles of the upper chest, shoulder girdle and neck instead of the slower fuller breaths into the lower lung with the diaphragm. This causes excessive stress and strain in muscle groups which should be in a relaxed state. This, in turn, can promote forward head posture and rounding of the upper back through muscle shortening and tightness. Strained breathing in conjunction with the use of the diaphragm is normal when there is an increased demand for oxygen. Such as with physical exertion and in states of acute emotional stress, but abnormal when in a relaxed state.

Some signs you might be a faulty breather:

  1. Frequent sighing or yawning
  2. Poor posture
  3. Tightness and pain in the neck, shoulders and chest
  4. Periods of breath holding
  5. Breathing through your mouth rather than your nose
  6. Excessive fatigue
  7. Headaches
  8. Nervousness and anxiety

What can we do about it?

Aside from our normal assessments, chiropractic and exercise-based interventions to correct your posture, we take a closer look at your respiratory biomechanics and physiology. For this, we have specialised biofeedback equipment called respiratory capnography (See more on our Naturopathy page about healthy breathing) to help us better understand your breathing behaviour and the effect it may be having on your health as a whole. This also becomes a useful tool in the re-education of proper breathing patterns.

Dr Andrew Richards

Dr Andrew Richards

Dr Max Williams-Forbes

Dr Max Williams-Forbes