Breathing Pattern Dysfunction

We all breathe, right? But we don’t all breathe correctly or so we found out on a course run by Leon Chaitow at the clinic. Most people assume that how we breathe is natural and cannot be changed; that it has no connection between how we feel, function or perform, but this could not be further from the truth.

Having a breathing pattern dysfunction can cause symptoms such as:

  • Light – headednessdiagram 1
  • Vertigo
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Tremor
  • Poor circulation in the hands and feet
  • Numbness in the hands and feet
  • Low pain threshold
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath/hyperventilation
  • IBS and bladder dysfunction

What is a breathing pattern dysfunction?

About 10% of the population are diagnosed with hyperventilation syndrome. This being said it is thought that far more people are suffering from a breathing pattern dysfunction, which can be just as significant. The main breathing dysfunction is when the patient is in a state of constant inhalation, basically not breathing out fully with each breath. This can cause hypocapinia, a deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood and leads to your body becoming slightly more alkaline and can reduce the amount of oxygen getting around your body. Once this happens your body goes into subtle state of ‘fight or flight’, which is great if you have lions chasing you or emergencies to deal with but not an ideal state for your body to be in every hour of the day. If this happens, then your body’s reaction can be anxiety, change in blood PH, muscle tone, pain threshold, and many cetral and peripheral nervous system symptoms some even replicating heart problems.

On the course we learned how to assess for these breathing pattern dysfunctions with questionnaires, looking for symptoms, postures and movement. A simple assessment you could make at home is how long you can comfortably hold your breath following a breath out. People can normally hold their breath between 25 and 30 seconds.  If  it is less than 15 seconds then this could be an indicator that you have a low tolerance to carbon dioxide and possibly a good idea to seek advice from one of our physiotherapist especially if you have any of the symptoms that have been mentioned.

diagram 2

So what happens if you do find yourself with a breathing dysfunction?

There are many techniques that can be used which can help get you back to breathing to your full potential. Treatments which can be used include positional release, trigger point release, integrated neuromuscular inhibition technique and treating muscles around the neck and ribs that have been overworking using muscle energy techniques (MET’s). These are all things our physiotherapists can use to help get you on the right path but the main treatment for breathing dysfunctions will be done by you, the patient. It’s your job to retain your body to breathe correctly and reset the level of carbon dioxide your body believes is ‘normal’. This won’t be difficult or taxing, just a short session of breathing usually twice a day where you slowly retrain your own body giving you the chance to improve your breathing, help reduce your symptoms and perform better.