Are You a Dysfunctional Breather?

Posted by Yvonne Sanche on Thursday, March 16, 2017 Under: Breathing

It’s often something we take for granted until we become compromised by environment (allergens, smoke, steam etc.) our health (cold, asthma, COPD etc..). When we are compromised, our body helps us try to take in more air by using secondary respiratory muscles. Neck muscles contract to help raise the ribs, and chest/shoulder muscles help flare the ribs. Often times, we become stuck in this chest breathing state and end up with a dysfunctional pattern.

It is noted that breathing dysfunction is apparent in common musculoskeletal problems and upwards to 60% of healthy adults don’t even know their breathing needs fine tuning. This dysfunction can be biomechanical (increased sympathetic muscle tone), biochemical (hyperventilation), and even psychophysiological (emotions). (

It is not uncommon to find athletes with breathing that needs some work. I think about repetitive patterns in sports; throwing, kicking, and all things Crossfit (haha sorry guys!). The demands we place on our body, often unilaterally, to execute these movements. I also think about posture outside of sport. How do you sit all day? Are you slouched with shoulders up to your ears? Are you standing all day, and are you favouring one side? I also think about positioning within sport. Are you an overhead athlete? Do your ribs flare out? Are you a powerlifter noticing poor intra-abdominal pressure? Hmmmmm… can you see how breathing is such a hot topic?

Our diaphragm is a huge respiratory muscle and if it isn’t doing its job properly, then secondary muscles like scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, latissimus dorsi etc… will all kick in to help us breathe. Over time these muscles don’t perform their primary task well and noticeable musculoskeletal issues form.

I have observed that some people with poor shoulder mobility have varying degrees of breathing dysfunction and some are even heavy mouth breathers.  I recently read a blog (I’m sorry I can’t remember the author) and he noted something similar.

I have also started asking clients that present with both shoulder and hip issues, “How’s your breathing?”
It’s a piece of the puzzle that is the core we need to address.

So how do we reconnect the dots?  Luckily, there are a plethora of exercises to help with these issues. I personally enjoy some exercises that Eric Cressey demonstrates in the attached video. His website has very useful information and exercises especially for shoulder health.

 I’m also a fan of the following video by CoreXcellence on releasing the diaphragm.

 These are exercises we can all afford to do. We all get colds, we all get stressed, and some of us have panic attacks. Breathing. A very basic innate thing we do, and yet something that can become restricted easily over time. We need to release what’s tight, and retrain what isn’t working.

In : Breathing 

Tags: breath  exercise  functional movements  diaphragm