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poor posture effects on breathing

5 Poor Posture Effects On Breathing

If you have found yourself going through this article, it is probably because you are looking for information on poor posture effects on breathing. You have definitely come to the right place as this article takes a comprehensive look into poor posture effects on breathing.

Poor Posture Effects on Breathing

Poor posture effects on breathing
Poor posture effects on breathing

Yes! Poor posture can have effects on breathing techniques. Most people think that breathing and posture are two separate functions, but both can either help or hinder the other. Good posture is necessary to control breathing, volume, and resonance. In addition, breathing is more connected during exercise and movement. Poor posture, especially when sitting, compresses the chest region and does not allow the diaphragm to fully open when breathing.

Posture affects our health and performance in all areas of life. For example, people with round shoulders, hunch backs, and necks that force their gaze toward the ground, generally do not do well in interviews. They are less attractive and have a gloomier perspective on life.

Our posture affects our mood and emotions, which affects our health, which changes our breathing pattern, 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.

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Poor posture effects on breathing
Poor posture effects on breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing involves movement down during inspiration and up during expiration. Tense abdominal muscles also lift and exhalation helps to push the diaphragm against the lungs. The expansion of the lower rib cage (intercostal muscles) when inhalation occurs helps stretch the outer edges of the diaphragm. This will create more space for them to fill the lungs. This breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (soothing and refreshing for the body) creating mental clarity and attention.

Having a poor posture can have several negative effects on diaphragmatic breathing. However, the good news is that by changing your posture, you can help break the cycle, change your emotions, facilitating access to your optimal respiratory muscle, the diaphragm.

The Diaphragm and Its Function

The thoracic diaphragm, or simply the diaphragm is an internal skeletal muscle sheet in humans and other mammals that extends through the lower part of the thoracic cavity. It is dome-like in shape and comprises of 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 for breathing and is the only essential skeletal muscle for life. As the diaphragm contracts, the volume of the thoracic cavity increases, creating negative pressure there, which attracts air to the lungs.

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poor posture effects on breathing
poor posture effects on breathing – The diaphragm

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. During exercise, the abdominals, internal obliques and other chest muscles help to pull the ribs toward the center and remove air from the body. Poor posture has effects on breathing techniques, tiring the respiratory muscles with exercise, especially high-intensity movements.

Effects Of Poor Posture on Breathing

Poor posture effects on breathing
Poor posture effects on breathing

Poor posture such as slouching means that there is a misalignment of your spine. This poor posture has negative effects on your breathing. Breathing in this position is difficult.

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If you are slouched, your diaphragm cannot easily descend. Hence, making it difficult to activate the posterior half of your diaphragm, which attaches to the lower ribs and 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 lesser oxygen than it requires.

Furthermore, your body will still want to bring air to replenish its oxygen stores. To do this, it will have to make use of the backup muscles for breathing. These backup muscles are found around the neck and chest. However, these backup muscles for breathing are the same muscle groups that are already tense and possibly tired due to forward posture.

Poor posture effects on breathing
Poor posture effects on breathing

These neck muscles are not very efficient for breathing. They are not designed to be used during the 17,000 breaths we take on average per day. The muscles tire and end up creating muscular trigger points that can lead to headaches, jaws and neck pain.

The effects of poor posture on breathing can also be felt by people whose upper back is too curved (kyphosis). For these people, their inward shoulders are prone to sternum depression. On inspiration, the sternum cannot fully expand and the rib cage has a limited range of motion on the front side of the body.

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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 latissimus and muscles of the lower back (erector of the spine). This shortens the cross diaphragm and limits the range of movement of the diaphragm. When there is a limitation to 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.

Some people with poor posture like exaggerated curvature of the neck (cervical spine lordosis) may also have negative effects and experience difficulty breathing due to compression of the larynx.

Research on breathing patterns and emotions has shown that when you adopt a slouched posture/breathing pattern, you feel sad. The powerful discovery of this research is that if you change your posture and breathing pattern, you can change your emotions.

Poor posture effects on breathing
Poor posture effects on breathing

With everything we do that leads us to a sedentary lifestyle with a greater sitting position and a tendency towards a forward posture, we must focus on a better posture and a better function to avoid these changes to affect our daily life.

Slouching while sitting or standing does not help you breathe in any way. In fact, the effects of poor posture in breathing can be pretty dangerous. It is needful for you to train your body to sit and stand straight.

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Can Poor Posture Cause Shortness of Breath?

A lot of people might be asking if one of the effects of poor posture on breathing is shortness of breath.

Yes, it is. Poor posture can cause shortness of breath. One of the main ways it does this is by limiting your ability to access your diaphragm and abdominal breathing. Your brain cannot get the oxygen it needs and feels a sensation of “hunger for air,” so it will recruit the backup muscles for breathing that we highlighted earlier. They have to work more frequently to obtain the required oxygen supply, which makes them breathe quickly and superficially.

Over time, breathing faster 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 you reach it, it will stimulate faster breathing than necessary. The shortness of breath can come from your body needing oxygen or your suffocation response has been caused by an increase in carbon dioxide levels. It is important to work with your GP and respiratory physiotherapist to rule out other reasons for shortness of breath.

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 get enough air, therefore, finding it difficult to perform tasks an average person will carry out without difficulties.

For you to be free from the effects of poor posture in breathing and other areas of your life, you need to work on strengthening your muscles. Your muscle plays a vital role in supporting your posture.

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How Muscles Affect Our Posture

To understand the effects of posture on breathing, 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 of your postural muscles are located and work in the torso.

The activation of postural muscles may seem difficult and there is no doubt that for untrained and unconditioned muscles it 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. It feels like a dome that separates our lungs and our abdominal cavity and has several key roles, including breathing, stability, and speech.

When we seek to activate our core muscles, the first step we must take is to learn to breathe. Then the transverus abdominus, the multifidus, the pelvic floor muscles, and the diaphragm can be activated to provide postural alignment and support for the nucleus. But often breathing is the last thing we think about when it comes to finding an optimal posture.

In the modern work environment, the body is required to recruit more postural muscles than phasic muscles. Sitting and slouching are not fast-contracting muscular activities. As a result, the phasic muscles begin to be redundant. Our nervous systems use them less and the connection is broken.

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Can Poor Posture Cause Muscle Spasm?

A 2018 study found that exercising and activating deep body muscles significantly improves body alignment, but also increases breathing capacity.

The strength and coordination of the body’s respiratory muscles will greatly affect the breaths you take. 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 how long it will take to correct your posture here.

What to do to Correct Poor posture and Its Effects on Breathing

There are some things you can do to correct poor posture and also improve your breathing. Try some of these techniques to help improve your posture.

  1. 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.
  2. Maintain a healthy spine: Consult your chiropractor regularly for spinal adjustments to correct misalignment and maintain flexibility in your spine. Any pain that develops here will make it very difficult to maintain a correct posture.
  3. Make sure you have a good vision: If you have vision problems, this may cause you to bend to see more clearly. Make sure your eyes are checked regularly.
  4. Good environment: Make sure everything fits you correctly. 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 pressuring them too much.

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  5. Flexibility exercises: Performing flexibility and resistance exercises can help 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 20-30 seconds. Make sure to complete stretches on both sides of the body.
    • Wall Chest Stretch

How to do it: Face the wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Walk your feet and push your hips back so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Keep the toes pointing forward and the feet under the pelvis. You should feel a stretch in the back of the legs, chest, and muscles of the tissue.

    • Head-to-hand Neck Release

How to do it: Take a cross-legged position (or sit in a chair). Bring your right ear towards the right shoulder. Raise your left arm to shoulder height and separate your fingers with your thumbs up. Place your right hand lightly on your head and apply light pressure if necessary. Tuck the left shoulder blade toward the spine and hold the posture. Repeat on the other side.

    • Traditional Quadriceps Stretch

How to perform: Bend the right knee and reach behind and grab the right foot with the right hand (or the left hand if you have trouble grabbing the same side). Keep your knees aligned, if possible. This stretching can also be done while lying on the floor.

    • Lunge with Chest Opener

How to do it: Stand near the opening of a wall or door, the right side of your body facing the wall. Bend your elbow 90 degrees and place your forearm on the wall. Adjust the body until you feel a chest stretch. Step back your right leg and bend your left knee forward in a lunge position. Tuck the pelvis under and press the right heel toward the floor.


Poor posture effects on breathing cannot be overemphasized. Poor posture compresses the chest region and does not allow the diaphragm to fully open when breathing. The effects of poor posture affect our mood and emotions, which affect our health, which changes our breathing pattern. Also, poor posture can lead to shortness of breath. This will cause poor blood circulation.

It is necessary to work on your posture. Learn how to sit straight, and stand straight. Also, learn the proper lower back posture to help strengthen the muscles of the back.

Consider the stretching exercises that I talked about above. They will help your diaphragm. but please visit your doctor if you notice any reoccurring pain whatsoever.

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