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Chiropractic can help with breathing problems.

Posted Jan 20 2010 3:31am

You might not think that Chiropractic can help with breathing problems but consider this story.  A patient brought in their daughter for me to find out why she had chest pain. She had been to her pediatrician already who didn’t think there was any thing wrong. I examined her and decided there was a problem in her mid back area, probably because of the heavy back pack she had to carry and began to treat her. She didn’t get better. That is unusual because children usually respond very quickly under Chiropractic care. Usually 2 or 3 visits and they are better and on their way. Obviously, something else was going on.

During my chiropractic consultation and with further questioning, I found out that this young girl was worried about what high school she was going to go to and it was affecting her breathing. She wasn’t sleeping well and had all the symptoms of being under a lot of stress. This included very shallow and rapid  breathing. We addressed her improper breathing and she quickly responded. Now the 2 or 3 visits worked and she was fine. So what about breathing?

Obviously, you know that if we don’t breathe, we don’t live. Our bodies depend on oxygen to run all the functions inside us. Our lungs are nice and big to bring in as much oxygen as possible. However, most of the time, we only use a portion of our full lung capacity. When we are at rest, we take several small breaths and then periodically we will take a large deep breath, filling our lungs. When we exercise, we breath deeper and more rapidly. This is a normal function of our lungs and the muscles that cause our lungs to be able to obtain that air.

I’m sure you are aware of the diaphragm as a muscle that is involved in the breathing process. There are many other muscles which help to fill the lungs and to force the air out of the lungs as well. These include the muscles between the ribs, intercostal muscles and extra helper muscles in the upper chest and into the neck, the scalenes. These extra muscles are not greatly involved in the resting process but more so with exertion.  If you visit my website at you will see an interactive model of the body and you can see the lungs and its nerve control.

The problems start when we are under stress and take rapid shallow breaths, using these extra muscles more than normal and fail the use the diaphragm to take the deep filling breaths. The extra helper muscles get fatigued and then neck pain, chest pain and other symptoms can occur. Education on deep abdominal breathing as well as stress reduction goes a long way to help these problems.

Try this exercise. Lie down and put one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach or abdominal area. Which hand is moving? If the hand on your chest is moving the most you are doing too much shallow breathing, using the extra helper muscles. Concentrate on taking deep breaths with your diaphragm. In other words, breathe in by pushing your stomach out and not moving the hand on your chest. This is hard to do initially but with practice you will actually bring in more air to the deeper areas of your lungs and feel better. By doing this exercise frequently, you will retrain your body to breath correctly. This will help reduce stress. Give it a try and enjoy the fresh air.

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