Conditions & Advice: Poor Breathing
Breathing is vital! It ensures a continuing supply of oxygen which is needed by all tissues of the body and clears excess carbon dioxide out of the body.
In normal relaxed breathing we take air in through our nose, which warms, filters and moistens the air as it travels down to our lungs. The diaphragm , the main breathing muscle, is attached to the bottom of the rib cage and separates the chest from the abdomen. At rest it is dome shaped and then it lowers and flattens when it contracts to draw air into the lungs. In normal breathing you expect the stomach to bulge slightly with each in breath as the diaphragm flattens and pushes the contents of the abdomen down.
Laughing, talking singing, coughing and exercise can all disrupt breathing in the short term. As long as we are able to return to relaxed breathing within a few minutes all is well. However asthma, sinusitis, anxiety or panic attacks and persistent mouth breathing have a more lasting effect on the mechanics of how we breathe. Breathing becomes more laboured and muscles other than the diaphragm are recruited. The whole rib cage will move with each breath and often you can hear the effort of breathing.
Ongoing disrupted breathing increases the likelihood of getting colds and throat or chest infections . It is also quite uncomfortable, although if you have breathed like this for a long time you may be hardly aware of the effort you are putting in and may not even know if you are a mouth breather.
But it is possible to reverse long-term disrupted breathing, often by doing simple exercises such as these:
- Try to breathe through the nose as much as possible and make the out-breath longer than the in-breath. Nose breathing helps to slow breathing down and normalise it.
- If you have a habitual dry cough try this: as soon as you feel the urge to cough, stop, swallow, cover your mouth with your hand and hold your breath out for 2 or 3 seconds, then continue to breathe very gently through your nose for a further 30 seconds, keeping your hand over your mouth to prevent you taking a gasp of cold air that will provoke the cough.
- If your nose feels constantly blocked you can try to clear it by nodding gently up and down as you breathe for a few minutes. You could also try holding your nose at the end of an out-breath and gently inflating the upper nasal passages by attempting to blow out through your nose. Hold this for a few seconds and then repeat. Warm moist air is always more comfortable to breathe than cold air so try steam inhalations to clear your nose.
Osteopathy can help improve the mechanics of breathing to release the tension held in the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles . Treatment can also address the postural issues that come about as a result of chronic poor breathing; standing or sitting stooped, rounded shoulders and tension within the neck and throat. If you persistently breathe through your mouth, osteopathy may also help relieve tension in the jaw and face allowing nose breathing to become easier.Back to top