Diaphragm Breathing – By Jessie Dalton, PT
Breathing – sounds pretty simple, right?
Although the act of actual breathing/taking a breath is regulated by our brain, our breathing pattern and muscle activity can actually change when we are in different types of situations. For example, if you are experiencing a painful injury or high levels or stress and/or anxiety, your breathing pattern will change to shallower breaths for which you use your chest and neck. Whereas if you’re taking some time to yourself and relaxing in a peaceful place, you’re likely taking deeper and more controlled breaths.
The use of breathing techniques and meditation/mindfulness has been linked to a reduction in stress, anxiety and other negative emotional responses.
Breathing coming from your chest seems to make sense, doesn’t it? Instead of solely using our chests, we should actually be using our diaphragm which located at the bottom of our rib cage – a bit lower than that central part of the chest. The diaphragm is a large dome shaped muscle and its’ predominant action is to assist in breathing. When we breath in it flattens out (down towards your toes), allowing for the lungs to expand and when we breathe out it “domes” back up towards the head as the air moves out of our lungs. When we use out chest to breath instead of the diaphragm, the muscles around the neck and chest get over used and fatigued, often times leading to increased tension and soreness.
When we are able to use the diaphragm, we get more air into our lungs and take some of that load and tension off our necks. In order to harness the powerful action of our diaphragm, we need to explore focused breathing techniques. The use of breathing techniques and meditation/mindfulness has been linked to a reduction in stress, anxiety and other negative emotional responses. By using techniques that encourage the use of our diaphragm, we can slow the speed of our breathing, open our lungs up to receive and exchange more oxygen into our body. This then gives an opportunity for our nervous system to regulate itself, leading to an overall feeling of increased calmness and improved emotional state. This will then create a better environment for our body to go through stages of healing for injury or just overall regulation.
This can be one of the various reasons your therapist may assign you breathing practice for home. Although it may not seem to be directly connected to your injury, being able to calm the nervous system and take your body out of a heightened state can actually help you recover faster from your injury.
Curious and want to learn more? Book an appointment with one of our therapists today!