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Anatomy of Breathing

Posted by Danny Williams  | 05 May 2020

The Anatomy of Breathing


Hi all and welcome to this week’s blog post from SYO! Today we’ll be talking about breathing.


From the moment we are brought into this world, until the moment we leave this world, we are breathing. In fact, the breath will continue to flow if we concentrate on it, or not.


Amazingly, unlike a lot of other bodily processes, we are able to both actively influence its function, or let it function completely alone. This means that we can choose to breathe (fast slow, deep, shallow) or ignore it completely and let it do it itself. Either way, the body will rarely stop breathing for more than a few seconds at a time.


In order to breathe we use a range of different muscles to help it along, depending on the type of breathing required. Generally, they are classified as the primary respiratory muscles (diaphragm, and external intercostals), and the accessory respiratory muscles (SCM, scalenes, pectoralis, and abdominals).


As we go through life and experience all that we do, our breath will adapt accordingly. The two main ways we will be talking about the breath today is through stress. Physical stress, and mental/emotional stress.


From a physical stress perspective, your body will increase its rate of breath, and respiration rate with increasing movement. For instance, walking uses more than sitting, running uses more than walking. To aid with this increased respiration rate, your body may choose to use more accessory breathing muscles to help it along, depending on the physical load.


From a mental/emotional perspective, we will often breathe differently depending on our stress levels. For example, we will often notice a change in our breathing if we are approaching a time deadline with work or assignments, responding to a stressful text message, worrying, sad, etc. The funny thing about the body, is that stress is stress, regardless of where it comes from.


A little bit of stress is good for us in small doses, because our body can learn to adapt and we can be quite productive in certain circumstances. However, at SYO we see a lot of patients that are stressed more often than not! If this sounds like you, you are probably experiencing more activity from your accessory breathing muscles than desired.


Overuse of these muscles can result in fatigue, which therefore result in postural change. This postural change is what is often responsible for our tension, aches, pains, and headaches. As osteopaths at SYO, we are focussed on getting rid of your pain, which means that understanding your breathing is of highest importance.


Feel free to come in and have a chat to one of our osteopaths to better understand ways to manage how your breath impacts your posture, stress levels, aches and pains and regain control of this fundamental aspect of being alive! 




Team SYO

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