I don’t have lung disease, how can breathing go wrong?
Although it may seem simple, breathing is actually very complex. The breathing centre in the brain receives input from various places in the body – from stretch receptors in the lungs (giving feedback on the amount of inflation), to chemical (oxygen and carbon dioxide) receptors in the brain and arteries, to muscle receptors in the chest wall and body.
What is a breathing pattern disorder?
Like breathing itself, breathing pattern disorders are complex. They can rarely be narrowed down to one thing, and often involve multiple factors. They may have musculoskeletal implications – like poor posture or a chronic injury that changes how you use muscles involved in breathing. They may have a psychological basis, where fear of breathing (or not breathing) impacts how you breathe. Or there may be some respiratory factors involved, like asthma, that affect your breathing pattern - which in turn affects your symptoms.
Probably the most basic and inclusive definition to use for breathing pattern disorders is breathing inappropriately for your body’s requirements, which lead to persistent, troubling symptoms.
How would I know if I have a breathing pattern disorder?
Breathing pattern disorders aren’t easily identifiable – it’s not like, say, breaking a wrist or spraining an ankle, where the diagnosis is easy to come by. Often, clients come to me after going through exhaustive testing with still no answer to their problems. The following is a list of symptoms that often accompany breathing pattern disorders:
- light headedness
- tingling or numb lips or extremities
- upset stomach or irritable bowel syndrome
- achy muscles or joints
- tiredness, weakness, broken sleep and nightmares
- dry throat, frequent swallowing
- unexplained pain
Are you checking “yes” on a few of those? Why not see how your breathing is yourself: place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Observe your breathing for one minute. You should notice that a) you are breathing through your nose, b) your hand on your belly moves first and the most, c) your breathing rate is between 8-12 breaths per minute and d) your breathing is quiet and easy.
Ok, so my breathing isn’t great….now what?
A comprehensive breathing assessment that looks at how you are breathing – including muscle use and strength, posture, core stability and respiratory chemistry – will provide you with information on whether your breathing pattern is contributing to your symptoms.
From there, a treatment plan is developed to help you reach your goal. Learning to breathe well is like learning a new skill. It requires awareness, practice and small, simple steps to reach the long term goal. Contrary to what many people think, it’s not about “deep breathing” or even just “belly breathing.” Breathing well is a complex interaction between varying levels of breathing requirements (lying down is different from standing, which is different from walking) and varying levels of movement tasks (walking, versus running, versus reaching for your groceries out of the car).
The BradCliff Method of breathing retraining is an evidence-based physiotherapy intervention that incorporates all dimensions of breathing inputs and resulting outputs. Its primary goals are to improve awareness of abnormal breathing habits and restore efficient breathing patterns. Practitioners provide you with resources and techniques to help guide you through the process of changing your breathing from “uh-oh” to “oh wow!”
As a physiotherapy intervention, most insurance companies will cover assessments and treatments. And while it may take a few months to correct a dysfunctional breathing pattern, sessions are spread out.
If you have concerns about your breathing, or maybe have some of the symptoms listed above, but have not found a reasonable solution, book in for a breathing assessment. As a certified BradCliff Method practitioner, my goal is getting you to breathe well, move well and ultimately, be well.