What Do You Do 26,000 times a day?
You are doing it without even thinking about it. Breathing. This means, if we do the math of 18 breaths per minute (adult average) x 60-minutes x 24 hours we are breathing approximately 26,000 times each day. Could you imagine doing deadlifts incorrectly 26,000 times a day. Even the thought brings injury to mind, right? Yet everyday most every adult, unless they know the secret of this natural breathing technique, are continuously reinforcing a faulty breathing pattern. In a nutshell, it means that we are breathing in the wrong pattern.
Why is this happening to us?
I'm sharing my own theory here. If you have young children around you from the age of being born to around 14-years of age then you'll notice when they breath they almost exclusively breath through the abdomen with minimal to no movement of the shoulders. For whatever reason though as we become adolescents we begin to switch our breathing pattern to more of a chest breathing pattern. Is it because we are taught to keep our 'stomachs in' or we are so body conscious we don't allow our belly to fully relax as we once did? Who knows for sure but regardless this change creates some major postural debt. Read on...
Is it such a big deal?
Naturally when we need more oxygen into the body we need to use every muscle available to help take that extra air into the lungs. However, for the vast majority of our normal day, our breathing rate is slower and more at rest meaning the additional muscles in our neck and upper chest, known as the accessory muscles of respiration, are not required. During this more restful state of breathing it should be mainly our diaphragm moving to provide sufficient airflow in and out. However, when we hit puberty we change our pattern of breathing, almost reversing it completely to use our accessory muscles at rest instead of more exclusively the diaphragm. Now if you do any single exercise 26,000 times each day, you can understand how a muscular imbalance can be caused. Now if you consider how many years you may have been breathing in this fashion, don't waste any more time and start to use the breathing technique exercise I've described in my video above. Here is a short-list of the symptoms that can arise due to breathing improperly with our neck muscles:
- Forward head posture
- Headaches, migraines, vision and vestibular issues.
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - including arm numbness and tingling
- Reduced range of motion (ROM) of neck, shoulder and thoracic spine
- Altered alignment of the cervical vertebrae
- Symptoms mimicking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Digestive disruption - due to a lack of massaging naturally induced when breathing correctly.
So in summary, as your massage therapist, I say yes it is a big deal that only gets bigger over time if ignored. Remember we want to manage our Postural Debt every day!
What to do about it?
Be sure to review my 5-minute video above and immediately start putting it into action. I also highly recommend a skilled massage therapist assess your posture and start treating the short-tight muscles that have become habituated in breathing for you. This is imperative to make significant changes especially if you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms or injuries listed above.
Yours In Muscle Health,
Jason Barlow, RMT.