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304 North Cardinal St.
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You may be asking, can poor posture cause shortness of breath? Yes! Poor posture can cause shortness of breath. Most people think that breathing and posture are two separate functions, but both can help or hinder the other. Good posture is necessary to control breathing, speech volume, and resonance. Poor posture, especially when sitting, compresses the chest area and does not allow the diaphragm to open fully when breathing.
Posture affects our health and performance in all areas of life. Our posture affects our mood and emotions, which affects our health, which changes our respiratory rate, which again changes our posture. And so the cycle continues.
There are three main muscle groups involved in breathing. These are the intercostal muscles of the rib cage, the abdominal muscles (obliques, transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus) and the diaphragm. The shape of the diaphragm like a parachute. It is located under the ribcage.
Bad or poor posture can cause several negative effects on diaphragmatic breathing like shortness of breath. However, the good news is that by changing your posture, you can help break the cycle, change your emotions, facilitate access to your optimal respiratory muscle, the diaphragm, thereby counteracting the shortness of breath caused by bad posture.
The thoracic diaphragm, or simply the diaphragm, is a sheet of internal skeletal muscle in humans and other mammals that extends through the lower part of the thoracic cavity. It is shaped like a dome and includes muscle and fibrous tissue. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity, which contains the heart and lungs, from the abdominal cavity. It serves as the main muscle to breathe and is the only essential skeletal muscle for life. As the diaphragm contracts, the volume of the thoracic cavity increases, creating a negative pressure there, which attracts air to the lungs.
Diaphragmatic breathing involves downward movement during inspiration and upward during expiration. Tense abdominal muscles also lift and exhalation helps push the diaphragm against the lungs. The expansion of the lower rib cage (intercostal muscles) during inhalation helps to stretch the outer edges of the diaphragm. This will create more space for the lungs to fill. This breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (soothing and refreshing for the body) creating mental clarity and attention.
Furthermore, when we breathe, the diaphragm contracts and pulls into the abdominal cavity until it is “flat”, while the intercostals (rib muscles) lift the ribs outward. Upon expiration, the diaphragm relaxes and resumes its dome shape, while the ribcage returns to its resting state. When the air leaves the body, the thoracic cavity shrinks. Poor posture can cause shortness of breath, depleting the respiratory muscles with exercise, especially high-intensity movements.
Many people keep wondering if poor breathing posture can cause shortness of breath. Just like we have earlier said, the answer is yes, bad posture can cause shortness of breath.
If you slump, your diaphragm cannot easily descend. As a result, it is difficult to activate the posterior half of your diaphragm, which sticks to the lower ribs and the spine. This can increase breathing resistance and decrease diaphragm function. This leads to a transition from normal deep breathing to short and shallow breathing. Shallow breathing will result in the body having less oxygen than it needs.
In addition, your body will always want to bring air to replenish your oxygen stores. To do this, you will have to use the support muscles to breathe. These support muscles are located around the neck and chest. However, these breathing relief muscles are the same muscle groups that are already tense and possibly tired due to poor posture.
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These neck muscles are not very efficient for breathing. These muscles get tired and eventually create muscle activation points that can cause headaches, jaws and neck pain.
Poor posture will cause shortness of breath by limiting your ability to access your diaphragm and have deep abdominal breathing. As a result, your brain cannot get the oxygen it needs and feels “hungry for air,” so it will recruit the respiratory muscles described above. They have to work more frequently to get the required oxygen supply, which makes them breathe quickly and shallowly.
Over time, faster breathing expels too much carbon dioxide from the blood and changes the chemistry of the blood. The receptors in your arteries set a new threshold for carbon dioxide and when it reaches it, it will stimulate breathing faster than necessary. The feeling of shortness of breath can come from your body needing oxygen, or your suffocation response has been caused by an increase in carbon dioxide levels.
When your respiratory rate changes, even the easiest forms of exercise can become difficult. This is what happens to people with bad posture. They cannot have enough air, therefore it is difficult for them to perform tasks that an average person will perform without difficulty.
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People whose upper back is too curved (kyphosis) may also feel the effects of poor breathing posture. For these people, their internal shoulders are prone to sternum depression. On inspiration, the sternum cannot fully expand and the rib cage has a limited range of motion in the front of the body.
An exaggerated lumbar curve (lordosis), similar to when the pelvis leans forward, decreases the range of motion of the lower lumbar spine and shortens the dorsal and lumbar muscles (erector of the spine). This shortens the transverse diaphragm and limits the range of movement of the diaphragm. When there is a limitation in the range of movement of the diaphragm, the expansion of the breath decreases. Because the abdominal muscles are “too tight” in this posture, the muscles cannot function properly during expiration.
Furthermore, some people with poor postures, such as an exaggerated curvature of the neck (lordosis of the cervical spine) may also have shortness of breath due to compression of the larynx.
With everything we do that leads to a sedentary lifestyle with more sitting and a tendency towards head forward posture, we must focus on better posture and function to prevent these changes from affecting our daily lives.
Slouching while sitting or standing does not help you breathe. In fact, the effects of poor respiratory posture can be quite dangerous. You need to train your body to sit and stand straight.
In order for you to free yourself from shortness of breath due to poor posture, you must work to strengthen your muscles. Your muscle plays a vital role in supporting your posture.
To understand how poor posture can cause shortness of breath, we need to understand the difference between postural and phasic muscles.
The phasic muscles, mainly composed of fast contracting fibers, are the main muscles of the body. The phasic muscles usually come in pairs (biceps – triceps, quadriceps – hamstrings) that act against each other (to control movement and stability).
Most postural muscles meet and work on the torso.
The activation of postural muscles may seem difficult and there is no doubt that for untrained and unconditioned muscles this requires effort. But the benefits of good postural muscle control are enormous.
Our diaphragm is our main respiratory muscle that performs 80% of relaxed breathing work.
When we seek to activate our central muscles, the first step we must take is to learn to breathe. Then, transverus abdominus, multifidus, pelvic floor muscles, and diaphragm can be activated to ensure postural alignment and support of the nucleus. But often breathing is the last thing we think about when it comes to finding an optimal posture.
In the modern workplace, the body has to recruit more postural muscles than the phasic muscles. Sitting and slumping are not fast-contracting muscular activities. As a result, the phasic muscles begin to be irrelevant. Our nervous systems use them less and the connection is broken.
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A 2018 study found that exercising and activating deep body muscles dramatically improves body alignment, but also increases breathing capacity.
The strength and coordination of the body’s respiratory muscles greatly affect the breaths it takes. Like any other muscle, the respiratory muscles must also be trained. Sitting for long periods does not positively affect the deep muscles of the body. We have lost the ability to recruit these muscles. However, proper training by a physiotherapist, exercise trainer or respiratory trainer can help restore this ability. Find out here how long it will take to correct your posture.
There are certain things you can do to correct bad posture and cause improvement in shortness of breath. Try some of these techniques to improve your posture.
Perform breathing techniques: Not only will conscious breathing exercises help activate the diaphragm, but physiological and mental responses to correct breathing will help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. When you feel stressed, focus on the exhalation.
Maintain a healthy spine: Check with your chiropractor regularly to see if there are adjustments in the spine to correct misalignment and maintain flexibility in your spine. Any pain that develops here will make it very difficult to maintain a correct posture.
Make sure you have a good vision: If you have vision problems, you may slouch to see more clearly. Be sure to check your eyes regularly.
Good environment: Make sure everything is right for you. Well-fitting clothes can help with posture, nothing too tight. Also, make sure your chair at work is at the correct height. If your legs sway, get a footrest to avoid pressing them too much.
Flexibility exercises: Performing flexibility and resistance exercises can help to realign the posture, allowing breathing to function properly. Stretching also focuses on deep breathing, which helps to retrain the brain and body for proper breathing. The following stretches can be done at the end of your regular workouts. Ideally, stretching is more effective when held for 20 to 30 seconds. Be sure to complete the stretches on both sides of the body. You can try exercises like wall chest stretch, traditional quadriceps stretch, head-to-hand neck release.
Poor posture can cause shortness of breath. Poor posture compresses the chest area and does not allow the diaphragm to open fully when breathing. In addition, poor blood circulation can arise due to shortness of breath, whose cause is bad posture.
Consider stretching exercises to help your diaphragm, but ask your doctor if you notice recurring pain.