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  • Kristin McNealus, DPT, MBA

Let’s Talk About Breathing

Breathing is something we do all day, every day, but I am sure you rarely give it much thought. But how we breath is related to many of our body’s functions. One way of breathing more of a chest breathing. This is the way we naturally breath when we are upright and walking – the shoulders rise, and the chest expands.

Now think about how you breath when you are stressed or anxious. You may be running late, or you cannot figure out why your child is screaming, or maybe your child is sick. This is also how we breath when we are in pain. What is your breathing like? It is shallow and faster, right? You may even be holding your breath at times without realizing it. This allows for less oxygen to enter the lungs, and therefore the blood. It also increases the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood, which actually increases our anxiety! So it is a spiral. Our heart rate increases, and our muscles tense. This can exacerbate any pain that we are already in, and any stress we feel.

Can you see why it may be beneficial to pay more attention to our breathing? We may be triggering an overactive sympathetic nervous system, and keeping our bodies in a “fight or flight response.”

To get out of this, even if only for a few minutes, we want to focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is intended to help you use the diaphragm correctly while breathing to:

- Strengthen the diaphragm.

- Decrease the work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate.

- Decrease oxygen demand.

- Use less effort and energy to breathe.

We'll discuss techniques next week.

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