What’s the big deal with breathing?
Have shoulder pain? Feel stressed anxious? How we breathe may be to blame. This sounds crazy, but hear me out! Improper breathing techniques, known as chest breathing, causes our bodies to rely on our secondary breathing muscles more to do our main breathing muscles job. This is a term called synergistic dominance. Synergistic dominance is a term used for the big muscles becoming lazy, and the secondary muscles to do all of the work. The example we’re using here is the Scalene muscles (secondary breathing muscles).
If we are chest breathing all of the time, these muscles will get overworked (along with other secondary muscles) because the diaphragm (one of the main breathing muscles) isn’t working like it should.This will eventually lead to trigger points in the secondary muscles from overuse. Massage will alleviate and help the pain, but it will not cure the issue. Our breathing habits will cure the issue. Self massage for these muscles may be tricky. Place your fingers in between the groove with light force and cough or take a shallow fast breath. Feel those muscles? Those are the Scalenes! Do not press too hard because you have arteries and nerves that run by these muscles. If they feel like guitar strings, then they’re pretty tight and need some work. Use a Travell and Simons Trigger point therapy book or find a trusted massage therapist to work on them.
When we were born we were taught to breathe through our belly. Watch a baby breathing. His/her belly moves up and down. This is how to do it.
As we get older we steer away from “breathe and relax”. We simply forget how! Lie down and take a breath in. Don’t think about it! That’s cheating! If it looks like this…
Then you may be chest breathing. It’s okay, we are now aware of it. Its easy to fix. Breathing through our belly is the first step to calming down and helping the shoulder pain and anxiety to diminish. This will not be a one time cure everything exercise. This will take some time. Overtime this will help the secondary muscles to do less work and relax.
So why in the world does it hurt in my arm and upper back?
This is simply due to where the scalenes (secondary breathing muscles) are located in the body. If they are tight or overworked, they will cause trigger points. We know that by reading above. Where they are located will show the reason it hurts in these other areas. Below is a picture of “The scalene triangle”.
When the scalenes are overworked, they may aggravate the nerves coming out of the neck called the Brachial plexus. These nerves (c5 to t1) run from the neck, down to our fingers. The pain referral pattern is due to the aggravation of the nerves that deal with those areas. This is why even though you may have pain in one area, it may be coming from somewhere else.
So what now?
Diaphragmatic Breathing and box breathing will help in alleviating these symptoms. Lying on your back, breathing through your belly, try to breathe in this fashion. Do this for about 15-25 cycles. Some recommend holding for as long as 8 seconds! I feel 4 will do just fine. It does well for the Navy Seals in stressful situations, it will work for you too. This exercise can be performed daily.
If this doesn’t alleviate your shoulder pain, it will alleviate other things. Here are some benefits to box breathing.
-Better sleep quality
-Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body calm down
-Reduces anxiety and panic
-Helps reduce stress
-Helps digestion (parasympathetic nervous system response)
-Helps relax secondary breathing muscles
I hope this helps many of you!