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Back Pain and Breathing

Back Pain or Back Stiffness is something I see commonly in my Pilates Studio.

There are so many reasons why back pain rears it’s head.

From wear and tear to acute injuries to postural habits.

What I see often with back pain clients is their inability to utilise diaphragmatic breathing to expand the ribcage in all directions. I know, it sounds like such a simple thing to do, but the reality is that if you have programmed your breathing pattern over a period of 20, 30 or 40 years you have habitually trained some muscles to turn on and some to turn off.

A lot of people restrict the diaphragm in seated posture and breathe clavicularly into the shoulders, creating shoulder, neck and upper back tension.

The inverse is also true, some clients thrust their chest forward and breathe only into the belly, creating mid and lower back tension, this coupled with tight hip flexors is a recipe for disaster.

The diaphragm works with the transverse abdominals, pelvic floor and multifidus muscles. The transverse abdominus and internal as well as external obliques for part of the forced expiration group of muscles which in turn with the help of the diaphragm helps recruit the pelvic floor.

It basically acts like a compressor system that keeps the spine supported during dynamic movement.

So an inhalation that expands the ribs to the side is key and then a complete exhalation where the lower ribs move down and in not only helps this compressor system function but it massages the tight psoas muscle that can pull the spine into extension causing pressure on the lower back vertebrae.

Making this even more fascinating is the role of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. If we breathe shallowly it can signal to the brain that we are in a level of fight or flight and all your “ready to run” or “ready to freeze” muscles will activate. One of the being the psoas muscle.

So a fairly complex pattern that is elicited by the way we breathe.

You really want a slow, measured inhalation and slow, measured, complete exhalation. Inhale so you can feel the ribcage expanding sideways and for most people with tight backs using the breath to flow into the lower, middle, upper back area. And Then complete, slow exhalations where the ribs draw in like a corset, feeling the side abdominals tighten, the ribs move down and in but keep the bigger belly relaxed.

I often post tutorials on breathing on my instragram feed, so give me a follow

Back Pain Webinar

Or visit my page for more info on how to use daily habits to eliminate back pain and stiffness without having to resort to pain tablets.

Book an in studio or online session.

Here are a few things that can help you slow down your breathing and aid to overall wellbeing.

This handy little device helps you slow your breath rate, pretty much like breathing through a straw, which is what I often cue with my clients.

It also brings mindfulness to your breathing.

I also love these breathing cards. Great way to start a meditation practice and gain the benefits of mindful breathing.

Who thought a neck pillow could have so many benefits. Due to our postures and forward head we often loose the natural curvature of the cervical or neck spine. This affects the entire spine, so when we look at sorting out a lower back problem looking at the neck is key. Re-establish cervical extension with this handy tool and see how the rest of your back feels. Remember to include a complete exhalation so that the ribs move down and upper, middle and lower back relaxes onto the floor.

Can’t go without my trusty foam roller to release tight muscles. A go to.

Happy Breathing. Happy Body. Healthy Mind.

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Main photograph compliments of:

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