Breathing is a crucial part of how we function as human beings. We require oxygen in order for proper muscular and metabolic function and our diaphragm is the primary muscle in charge of facilitating the change in gases and helps to keep us moving.

Changes in your posture and pain can alter the way you breathe, limiting the expansion of the diaphragm. This can result in compensation through muscles that shouldn’t be helping with breathing (for example, the use of muscles that help to support your head and neck can be overused and lead to shoulder or neck pain). 

When you breathe, do you breathe through your chest? That’s what is known as apical breathing: it focuses on the use of what we call ‘accessory’ neck muscles that help assist normal breathing. Like above, overuse of the accessory neck muscles can lead to shoulder and neck pain. Focusing on diaphragmatic breathing helps to restore the normal movement and breathing pattern by using the primary muscle involved in breathing: your diaphragm. Try this at home:

 

Start on your back with one hand on your chest and one on your stomach, just above your belly button. When you breathe, focus on moving the hand on your stomach without moving the hand on your chest.  If that is pretty easy, try to put your hands along your ribcage along the sides and focus on continuing breathing through the stomach, but expanding out through your hands as you breathe in.

This can be practiced in different positions, like sitting in a chair, or even standing – but it would be easiest to start lying down and progressing based on your ability to perform this task in the prior position. Give this a shot and see how it feels!

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