Move Your Lungs Move Your Body, Part 2

By Shane YoungOctober 8, 2013

Importance of Breathing and Exercise – Part 2

Have a constant neck ache or shoulder pain? A faulty breathing pattern hyper facilitates the accessory respiratory muscles, like sternocleidomastoid, scalene and upper trapezius.  This means that the Accessory Muscles Are Doing the Work! In this scenario the rib cage and intercostal muscles don’t (or can barely) move. The belly and therefore the organs are not being pumped, which causes the diaphragm to become ridged and full of trigger points. The quadrates Lumborum also becomes ridged and full of trigger points further depressing the rib cage and lack of movement.  Yikes!

So how does this affect back pain?

Breathing is intimately related to your “core,” which is where the stability of your spine comes from and breath happens. Your core is made up and an inner unit and an outer unit.  Stabilization of the spine is primarily done by the inner unit but in concert with the outer unit. The inner unit consists of; the TVA (transverse abdominus), diaphragm, pelvic floor and internal obliques.

These muscles are the true stabilizers of the spine. You know those guys still running around the gym using a weight belt, well, the TVA, is only on the inside of your body. It’s a horizontal muscle that wraps from your belly button around your back and inserts into Thoraco-lumbar-fascia, it inserts into the facet joints on the spinus and processes and stabilizes the spine. Think of that corset.

In cadaver dissection, there is no difference between these first three muscle groups. Your inner unit is one big sack that expands and contracts, creates pressure or hoop tension that protects the spine through the thoraco lumbar fascia, and pumps the organs.

If the TVA is not working properly, the spine cannot stabilize itself and begins to recruit compensatory muscle groups to do the job that it cannot. For instance, if the TVA / diaphragm / pelvic floor is faulty, the body might recruit the hamstrings for stability. These are the Accessory Muscles I mentioned earlier.

And here’s where the back pain comes into play… The hamstrings are a phasic muscle group, responsible for bigger movement patterns and when they are falsely recruited as a tonic muscle group for stability, postural distortions, and a robbing of the body’s energy for the compensatory movements patterns happens. Pain, if not already present, will follow.

To address back pain, addressing the breathing pattern first will help break the pain cycle.  Here are some great ways to address the cycle:

  • Freeing the diaphragm through NMT- neuromuscular therapy.
  • Re-teaching proper diaphragmatic 360* breathing.
  • Awaking the TVA.
  • Opening the short tight muscle groups attaching to the pelvis with myofascial stretching.
  • Cleaning up the diet for any foods that are inflaming the gut and therefore affecting TVA and then, address the smaller structures of the low back with core exercises like horse stance.

There are many different breathing techniques you can do to restore breathing to full capacity, including, various pranayama techniques, box breathing (4 count inhale, 4 count pauses, 4 count exhale), diaphragmatic breathing while lying down, standing or in a properly aligned bent over row position.

Again, NMT massage work is very important in restoring breathing patterns by opening the diaphragm, intercostals. Releasing the psoas can be very helpful as well.

After the NMT massage work is done, it’s super important to practice your breathing, your patterns around breathing and noticing when your breath becomes shallow or restricted.

Start to build a relationship with your breath. Ask yourself, is my breath open and flowing, tight and constricted, where in my body does it feel tight or constricted? Start to get curious, have an open mind, use visuals or colors that feel expansive to you.

Starting with 360* diaphragmatic breathing while lying on the floor can be a simple way to get started, giving way to more elaborate breath work practices that create certain physiological and emotional responses.

Next time, we’ll talk go into the emotional / physiological responses from improper breathing patterns, followed by ways of increasing your strength through proper breathing patterns.


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