By Dr. Laura Whipple DC
My column from the last week of September focused on stress, head forward posture or ‘tech neck’ and impaired breathing that I see regularly in the clinic.
This biomechanical issue is commonly responsible for tension headaches, neck, jaw, shoulder and upper back pain. The chest muscles are often very tight creating a hunched over posture, which causes weakness in the upper back and shoulder. As a result, the diaphragm is not able to expand the lungs properly and the smaller muscles of the chest and neck are needed to fully expand the lungs.
A great way to evaluate the quality of your breathing is to watch yourself take some deep breaths in a mirror. If you are chest breathing instead of belly breathing, you will see your neck muscles contract and your shoulders rise. You also will notice that this type of breathing looks anxious and uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are ways to correct dysfunctional breathing and also start working on the head forward, hunched shoulder posture that goes along with it. Daily breath retraining, cardiovascular exercise, strength training, stretching, chiropractic adjustments and cervical pillows are all great ways to permanently change posture and breath. Paying daily attention to your aches, upper back tightness and stress level is equally important.
Of these methods, the easiest to add to a busy schedule are posture adjustments and breath retraining. Adjusting your posture is simple. Shrug your shoulders up and roll them back while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Move your head position back while straightening your neck and tucking your chin. Finally, relax into the posture. If you are on the computer or looking at your phone, make sure your eyes are straight ahead. Standing desks at work provide a great way to improve posture and expand our core so we are breathing better.
Breath retraining can be done before bedtime. Research shows it only takes 30 belly breaths and roughly 5 minutes to lower our heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety levels and improve sleep quality. To do this technique correctly, place your hand over your belly button, take a deep breath in through your nose and focus on pushing your hand up by expanding your belly outward. Complete the breath by exhaling through the nose while flattening the belly. If you are congested, it may be necessary to breathe through the mouth. If you begin to feel light-headed, make sure you are exhaling completely. This technique can also be used throughout the day if you are feeling stressed or anxious.
Dr. Laura Whipple has a BSc in Neuroscience and is a Doctor of Chiropractic. She has been in practice for 20 years and recently joined Dr. Lenz and Dr. Savoia at the Los Alamos Chiropractic Center. Dr. Whipple’s practice focuses on posture and performance using a combination of soft tissue release, adjustments and exercise recommendations. She also coaches patients on self-care and body awareness so they can manage themselves in between visits. Los Alamos Chiropractic Center is in the Mary Deal building on Trinity Drive.