Fatigued? Brain fog? Lowered pain threshold? Cardiac and gut symptoms? The list goes on….. but what they all have in common is an association with breathing pattern disorder. There are many causes to theses issues, and underlying pathology cannot be ignored, but breathing pattern disorders, even when indirectly involved, can greatly add to and aggrevate the problem.
When the body is subjected to stress, it prepares itself in a number of ways, this collection of responses is known as ~ the fight or flight response. One thing the body does is increase it’s breathing rate (it’s all to do with carbon dioxide and blood ph levels). When the threat is over, the breathing pattern/rate returns to normal and we carry on.
One of the problems, however, is that our bodies never evolved to deal with prolonged stress. We evolved to respond to a stressful situations and, providing we survived it, we moved on. We didn’t worry about tomorrow, or making time for the shopping, or paying the mortgage, or the kids just “having to have” that latest thingy. We never thought that far ahead.
Prolonged stress and anxiety causes our body to be on ‘stand-by’ all the time. Bubbling away under the surface. The body preparing itself for some perceived threat. A threat that is not exposing itself.
And one of those ways is to over breathe. So when we become anxious we over breathe. When we over breathe it adds to our anxiety, and when we are anxious we over breathe. And there it is …. the cycle.
If we were to add up all the breaths we might take in any given day it works out at approximately 15000. Add some anxious over breathing and we go way beyond that, maybe 25000.
That’s a lot of breathing. 25000 times the muscles associated with breathing are working, day in ,day out. It becomes habitual. It becomes normal.
So very often by the time symptoms are evident you have already formed bad habits.
What can we do about it?
- Any underlying pathology needs to be addressed.
- Breathing pattern exercises.
- Soft tissue massage.
The point is that each of the above has to be addressed. Breaking habits takes time. But as well as that, there is already a stress element, the body already feels overwhelmed. Ask it to do too much more too fast, in the way of rehabilitation, and we end up just adding to the stress.
Breathing exercises should be simple and progressive. You will be shown how and why then you go away and continue them at home. Soft tissue massage techniques address the muscles and groups of muscles concerned. Both breathing and soft tissue needs to be addressed. If we try to retrain one without the other it’s not going to work.
One other thing, some of the worst breathers are athletes, (and they wont always be aware). There is evidence to support sympathetic nervous dominance (fight /flight) and the role of core muscle activity and support in association with breathing disorder.