Some neck pains worsen by the type of breath you take. Shallow breaths overuse upper chest & neck muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing is gentle but deep “fill your belly” breathing.
“Diaphragmatic breathing” or “abdominal breathing” or “tummy breathing” is the act of breathing deep into your lungs so that your abdominal area gently swells in a relaxed and smooth manner. Your diaphragm is a muscle. It is a flat disc-like structure that causes you to breath-in when it contracts. Gentle, relaxed, yet deep, breathing using your diaphragm is generally accepted to be the normal and natural way to breathe for a healthy person.
Diaphragmatic breathing is used as a therapy for many conditions and symptoms including chest conditions such as asthma, for hyperventilation, anxiety, stress & relaxation and for stuttering. I use diaphragmatic breathing to treat many musculo-skeletal pains – including neck pains and back pains. Many movement control classes also use diaphragmatic breathing e.g. yoga, tai chi, chi gung, and more.
Although the diaphragm is accepted to be your primary/foremost breathing muscle, many people have never been aware of how they breathe. I teach many, many people how to relax their upper chest and neck muscles when breathing and use their diaphragm instead. I have seen this make a big difference to their pain and symptoms.
Some people have just got themselves into a habit of breathing with their upper chest and neck muscles – possibly after a nasty chest infection, or after a period of stress, or because they often sit slumped and slouched. Other people have been tensing their abdominal area and this tension limits or stops them fully using their diaphragm to breathe. If this is the case, the abdominal tension may well need to be relaxed and released to allow diaphragmatic breathing.
Either way, if you’re not using your diaphragm in a gentle, full relaxed manner you may well be over-using other muscles. This can cause you pain, or this can increase the pain you feel from a different condition.
Is it worth thinking about and considering how you breathe?