Back Pain and Breathing Patterns
By Dr Carla Cupido • October 31st, 2009 • 9687 Views
Altered Breathing Patterns in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients
A very interesting paper was published in European Spine Journal this month entitled Altered Breathing Patterns in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients. Rousell and his colleague’s research proved that patients with chronic low back pain often experience altered breathing patterns while performing movements involving the core muscles. This is relevant for anyone who moves and has low back pain! Let’s define each of the patterns that were considered impaired:
Breath holding: Pretty self explanatory.
Paradoxical breathing: Chest wall moves in on inspiration and out on expiration (reverse of the normal movements).
Upper costal breathing: Upper chest moves with inspiration and expiration while the diaphragm is not properly engaged.
Mixed pattern breathing: Any of the above patterns mixed together.
Dr. Stuart McGill from the University of Waterloo has proven through his research that increased intra-abdominal pressure (which occurs with breath holding) can help to stabilize the lumbar spine. However, he has also proven that it increases intradiscal pressure or the pressure that exists within our intervertebral discs, thereby making disc herniations more likely. Therefore, to remain safe while practicing yoga, be sure to KEEP BREATHING, especially during forward folds and abdominal strengthening poses.
Paradoxical breathing exists in people with chronic respiratory conditions or during respiratory distress.
Upper costal breathing involves utilizing the accessory breathing muscles to inhale and exhale instead of the diaphragm. This is most easily noticed if you see someone’s shoulders move up and down during breathing. This can be caused by a number of reasons and can be corrected by learning how to engage the diaphragm and intercostal muscles to achieve healthy inspiration and expiration. People who upper chest breathe often have tight scalene muscles as they are key accessory breathing muscles.
The ideal breathing pattern was deemed to be costodiaphragmatic breathing. This pattern is defined by the ribcage displacing upwards, outwards and forward with outward abdominal movement (which is reversed on expiration). This means more than just breathing via the diaphragm; your stomach shouldn’t be the only area moving during breathing, your rib cage should move too.