Breathing – How Well Do You Breathe?
Hello and welcome to this week’s blog, all about breathing. What can I tell you that you don’t already know about breathing, though?
We all breathe, from the moment we are born, every single day, all day, and all night long, without fail. So why would a Sports Massage Therapist such as myself even consider how you breathe when you come to see me?
I shall explain.
The Anatomy and Muscles of Breathing
Your diaphragm, the major muscle of breathing. It is a thin and dome shaped muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from your thoracic cavity. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts so the centre of it moves downwards, and the edges of the muscle move upwards.
Next are your external intercostal muscles, which are also primary inspiratory muscles. Normal expiration occurs with the natural elastic recoil of your lungs and surface tension. If you forcefully exhale, this action is aided by your internal intercostals and abdominal muscles.
It is wise to note however, that all muscles attached to your rib cage have the potential to cause a breathing action. These are known as accessory muscles and include your sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, pectoralis major and minor, serratus anterior, latissimus dorsi, and serratus posterior, which aid inspiratory action and your abdominals, external and internal obliques, transversus admonish, iliocostalis, longissimus, and quadratus lumborum which can all aid expiratory action.
If you know you muscle names, you will see in that list muscles which are in your neck, your chest, your upper, mid, and low back.
The accessory muscles are recruited during times of exercise because of the increased metabolic need but are also recruited during times of respiratory dysfunction.
Respiratory function can be impaired during an accident, injury, trauma, illness, disease, or emotional stress. During emotional stress, the body has a fight or flight function to keep you safe, which can be triggered by something like your boss who is unhappy with you, walking towards you with further pressure for a task. This places your diaphragm and breathing into a stress state, getting you ready to fight or flight the situation.
The other thing that happens during such situations, is that your muscles which are influenced by movement in the rib cage can be compromised. For example, do you feel stressed at work and you also experience headaches or a sore neck? One cause could be shortened breathing patterns which do not allow for your rib cage to expand efficiently, having a knock-on effect to your other muscles.
If you are experiencing a physical illness which restricts your breathing, please seek advice from your doctor or respiratory physiotherapist.
Effect of Poor Breathing on Your Body
Not only can your other joints and muscles be affected, all the way from your head, down to your toes, is that your joints can have reduced action. If your diaphragm is working inefficiently, or stuck in a shallow breathing pattern, it can affect your shoulder range of movement as well as your pelvis function.
When a Sports Massage Therapist is Needed
I can assess your posture and see what is not doing what it should, muscle and joint wise, and talking with you about your lifestyle and job to see if there is anything that helps me identify what muscle could be the cause, including your respiratory muscles. I can help release or activate most muscles that are suffering and bring quick relief to you, while looking a bit further to figure out deeper issues.
How to Improve Your Breathing
This is something for you to research for yourself. Deep and diaphragmatic breathing are techniques long used is meditation and yoga. It may sound a bit far fetched at times, during a yoga practise, to move with the breath, to inhale and exhale at certain points of movement, but it is vital. Your breathing action allows the ribcage to expand and depress at the right moments to allow your arms, legs and back to bend and twist as they are needed. A great benefit to breathing deeply and with intention is stronger core muscles, and an improved stamina for your other sports and activities.
Thank you for visiting my blog and taking time from your day to read it, and as ever, if you have any questions you would like answered, please do get in touch.