The Importance of Breathing

            Importance of BreathingBreathing is an innate skill that most of us don’t think about. However, it is an essential part of healing, functional movement, and a key regulator of the body. Unbeknownst to many, dysfunctional breathing patterns develop throughout the lifetime due to stressors. If you look at a baby’s breathing pattern, you see it in its purest form. Deep breaths into the belly also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a muscle located in the abdomen and is the primary muscle of inspiration. When we inhale or take an inspiratory breath, the diaphragm flattens and the ribs move upward and outward as the lungs fill with air. With dysfunctional breathing patterns, accessory muscles in the chest and neck take over breathing causing the diaphragm to weaken and reduce inspiratory volume into the body. This breathing dysfunction is shown when people inhale and the upper chest/shoulders rise before the belly.

            Decreased use of the diaphragm can cause weakness not only in inspiratory capacity but functional movement patterns. Breathing is the fuel for movement, therefore, if breathing patterns are dysfunctional, movement patterns will be dysfunctional leading to difficulty performing certain tasks, maintaining posture, and increasing incidence of pain. The diaphragm is vital in posture and core/trunk stability. Improving or restoring breathing patterns not only reduces pain intensity and frequency, but improves alignment, stability, and function of the core, trunk, and back for postural stability and endurance to improve function and reduce incidence of reoccurring pain. That is why breathing is emphasized in physical therapy treatments. If breathing patterns are not normalized, other movement patterns cannot be normalized.

            Breathing is vital in the day to day function of our bodies due to its regulatory properties and connection to the nervous system. Breathing can regulate autonomic nervous system responses such as the fight or flight response that many of us have initiated due to stressors in our lives. Correct breathing patterns result in down regulation of body stressors such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and improves function of the immune system and functional performance via improving oxygenation and cellular activity. It also has emotional regulation via connection with the nervous system. It is a great relaxation technique and a reset for emotional and physical function. Next time someone reminds you to take a deep breath, remember all the benefits of the breath.

Elisa Lee, PT, DPT

Works Cited

Posted in: Fitness, Health & Wellness

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