by Holly Middleton
My secret trick for alleviating pain. Hint: you’re doing it right now...
Whether you’re recovering from an injury, noticing a new pain in your body or trying to master a new movement, there’s a secret trick to ditching pain. It’s so easy you can do it in your sleep. What is it? Breathing.
Sure, you breathe all day long. But have you paid attention to HOW you breathe?
Many of my patients hadn’t considered their breathing until we started working on it. ‘I breathe all day long. How can it be contributing to my pain?’ What they didn’t realize is that breathing is more than just bringing oxygen in and letting go of carbon dioxide. Breathing well is the foundation of being stable and strong on your feet, ditching mystery pains and being able to dampen your body’s overactive, protective pain signals during injury rehab.
What does good breathing look like? It’s all about pressure and alignment. Think of a piston inside a cylinder gliding smoothly up and down the walls of the cylinder. If that piston is gliding on an angle it is going to wear away at the cylinder and change how the pressures are distributed in the cylinder. Too much somewhere and not enough somewhere else. Just like the piston and cylinder, if your alignment is off and the pressures are being distributed in wonky ways, mystery pains are going to show up. Like stiff, tight shoulders, sore knees and gripping jaws.
Where is the piston in your body? The top of the piston is your diaphragm, the bottom is your pelvic floor and the walls are your abdominal muscles and back muscles. If your alignment is off (pelvis, ribs and skull not stacked up on top of each other), then your piston is gliding on an angle. Re-aligning your piston can go a long way to alleviating mystery pains and even those annoying pelvic floor problems.
To check in with your breathing, ask yourself if you’re doing these three things:
- 360 degree expansion around the base of the ribcage during your inhale? Are the base of your ribs expanding to the front, side and back? An inhale shouldn’t be only the belly or the chest rising. It should begin at the ribcage and then find its way into the belly and chest.
- When you exhale do the base of your ribs travel in towards each other? If not, try gently pulling your bellybutton to your spine while blowing the air out through pursed lips.
- Do you hold your breath at certain times? When you open an email, get up from a chair, reach for something high up? Notice when you hold your breath and be mindful of continuing to breathe calmly in challenging moments or positions.
Next time a mystery pain comes up or you are rehabbing an injury that has your nervous system firing up your pain signals to protect you, check in with your breathing. Are you breathing like a piston? Are you breathing at all? Go through your checklist and if you’re still having trouble restoring your breath, set up an appointment with our movement experts.
Want to learn more about how to work with Holly online or in person to work on your breathing? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org