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Breathing & Neck pain (& stress)

Updated: Mar 7

Did you know that there is a relationship between breathing and neck pain?

Our musculoskeletal (MSK) system and breathing mechanism are correlated to each other and play a key role to stabilize our posture.

When we are stressed, fatigued, or overwhelmed with a lot of anxiety, we tend to breathe more with the upper

chest compromising our posture. We do more shallow and rapid breaths, using less of our diaphragm and intercostal muscles, and engaging more of the accessory muscles located around the neck and chest (Scalene, Sternocleidomastoid, Trapezius).

Due to the altered breathing mechanism, those muscles tend to work harder, and tend to compromise the natural capacity of our body to restore itself; hence the neck pain and shoulder stiffness.

However, if the stresses persist, the symptoms can become chronic; and we want to avoid this happening.

What can you do about it?

Deep diaphragmatic breathing, exercises, and manual therapy can help; but start simply with these 3 small rules;

  1. Be aware of your breathing patterns. Put your hands around the side of your chest and feel how it is moving.

  2. Focus on your deep breathing through your nose, also called diaphragmatic breathing.

  3. Box Breathing (*) 3 times a day next to an activity you do every day, so it becomes routine (while waiting for the bus, or the kettle to boil, before bed, or straight after you wake up, etc…).

And if you want to be assessed by a professional, an osteopath or a manual therapist, they will help you manage your conditions with treatment, education and personalised rehab exercises.

*Step 1: Breathe in, counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs all down to your belly. Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centred.


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