Many common aches and pains, particularly around the head, neck and shoulders, may benefit from learning how to do diaphragmatic breathing exercises.
Breathing is unique in that it can happen automatically (such as when you are asleep) or can be completely conscious, such as holding your breath while underwater.
Control of breathing is an important component of yoga, pilates and meditation – in fact almost any stress relieving or relaxation program you can think of. But there are also important musculoskeletal implications that are relevant to people suffering from headaches, neck and shoulder problems.
When we are relaxed, the majority of our breathing is done by the proper functioning of the diaphragm.
When we exercise, we use many additional muscles, including those around the upper chest and neck, to help bring more air in to meet the requirements of our activity. The trouble is that when we are stressed (and not exercising) we may use this “fight or flight” breathing mechanism even when we are at rest.
Consider the implications for someone with a tight neck, who is using their neck muscles to help them breathe, even when they should be relaxed. As Physios, we are increasingly finding that clients in chronic pain are not using their diaphragm, but rather using their upper chest to breathe.