The Effect of Improper Breathing on Upper and Lower Back Pain.

By Andrew Siyabalawatte, posted April 2021.

There is evidence to suggest that there is a relation between breathing and back pain, why?

Firstly, a fact for you. The muscle that sits directly under our ribcage, known as the diaphragm has direct connectivity to our spine through the lower back. The diaphragm is active when we breathe – which is all the time.

Do you see the link? so if there are mobility issues in the lower back, breathing can also be affected and vice versa.

How does Breathing affect the Upper and Lower Back?

Right, now take a deep breath and with your hands (one on the chest and one on the back), try and feel the structures that move on the front of your body – you should notice the ribs elevate, the chest expand and the abdomen fill with air.

You should also feel how the upper, middle and lower back also expand and depress as you breath in and out – see the connection?

Factors that contribute to Improper Breathing

I have to mention that it goes without saying there are different factors that can contribute to improper breathing, from vascular problems with heart function to respiratory problems with lung function. Issues in those systems can directly affect breathing mechanics.

From a structural perspective, a very common factor, is poor posture. This is is a big one as sitting at the desk for long periods of time can directly affect breathing. Put simply, a result of “slouching” due to overused core muscles and overstretched back muscles cause a continued compression of the diaphragm.

This reduces the space for the diaphragm to expand and flatten and thus, leads to breathing issues.

So how does Improper Breathing Cause Back Pain?

From my experience in clinic, I often find that people who have constant or intermittent back pain for months or years even, have some form of breathing issue. I believe this issue develops over time as a “defence mechanism” to protect the back by tightening or recruiting the core muscles to engage more than they need to. This is why Osteopathic treatment of the diaphragm for example, can potentially alleviate symptoms of back pain almost immediately.

This exercise focus on gently decompressing the spine to help open out the ribcage and bring more air in. Focus on breathing in a slow controlled manner through the mouth to fill the abdomen during the stretch.

Did this exercise help? book in with our back specialists to find out how we can help alleviate your back pain and improve your breathing.

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