Breathing Issues and Breathing Exercises

Breathing Issues cause neck pain and back pain

Changing your breathing mechanics is not just about reducing breathlessness when you exercise.  There is a very long list of disorders and symptoms associated with breathing issues. These range from weight gain and cardio-vascular distress to back pain and neck pain, chronic fatigue, anxiety, incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders, to gas and acid reflex. How can improper breathing mechanics lead to so very many issues? Breathing is pretty complicated.

Breathing is a high priority

The crux of it is that breathing is of incredibly high survival priority. Thus the rest of the system will coordinate to accommodate it as best it can. You are a wonder of dynamic coordination. This constantly amazes me. One consequence of breathing issues that is particularly fascinating to me is the connection of the nasal passage to rib position. Of course both the nose and the diaphragm are part of the cardiovascular system, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised? Nonetheless, it’s often overlooked. The diaphragm works a whole lot harder to ‘pump’ air when the nasal passage is blocked. The overworking diaphragm might flare the ribs and cause lumbar instability.
A blocked nasal passage might also down regulate the muscles of exhalation (your abs!) so as to reduce resistance to the muscle of inhalation, your diaphragm. Bingo, and your stuffy nose is causing your back pain. Read more about a client with this issue here.

Stress response can cause bad breathing habits

Even if the air passage is free, if the stress response in your body has dictated stress breathing patterns they can become a habit. In these patterns the diaphragm feels that it’s having trouble breathing on it’s own. It needs help. Neck and shoulder muscles that are also attached to the ribs are recruited to help do the job of expanding them to let in air. When neck muscles are being used for breathing, they are really crap as neck muscles. They hurt. And thus the breathing issues are also causing neck pain!

Breathing Issues are bad for your organs too

But it’s not just the back, neck and shoulders that suffer. With changes in the positioning, movement and tension of the respiratory diaphragm come changes to the structures that pass through it. Which structures pass through it? Some pretty important ones! The esophagus, the abdominal aorta, the inferior vena cava. Stress on these can lead to swelling in the legs, gas and acid reflux, indigestion, lethargy, varicose veins, etc. You can learn more about this anatomy HERE in this YouTube video. But this isn’t the end of it here.  Because breathing issues usually mean suboptimal amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system — and EVERYTHING in your body needs this. Bad breathing is bad for your organs too. Every system in your body becomes compromised with bad breathing.

Breathing exercises are NOT One-Fits-All

breathing exercises

There are a lot of breathing exercises out there. And most of them will provide you with some relief and improve your capacity to breathe in some way. While a few might make things worse.  I repeat, breathing is complicated.

I repeat, breathing is complicated. Learning what specific issues you might be having can be incredibly empowering, and not just mentally. When you breathe better everything changes.

If you want better overall health get your breathing assessed. I’m available for appointments for those in the the Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge areas. I can coach you through specific and appropriate breathing exercises and breathing techniques that can make big changes in your health once you have been assessed. Contact me at to make an appointment or book an Initial Assessment.