Complications of Poor Breathing Patterns

Complications of Poor Breathing Patterns
Complications of Poor Breathing Patterns

For some individuals, the complications of poor breathing patterns can pose a significant issue. For people who have sub-optimal breathing patterns their breathing rate is greater than 16 breaths per minute. Usually anywhere from 7 to 14 is considered normal. Anything over 16 is generally you’re starting to get into a hyperventilation type of breathing. They will often have throat clearing, dry coughing, and excessive yawning. I’ve had people who look like they’re just going to drift off into sleep on me when I start to change their breathing patterns. There are often frequent sighs, and gasping for air, and often their speech will be very fast with rapid sentences while they’re there talking.  Sometimes they can’t complete a sentence before they are forced to take another breath in.

 Let me tell you about this lady.

She was a very stressed woman.  Before she retired, she was a consultant for the Pentagon, so she had a very high-level job, but now she was retired.  Despite being retired, she was still carrying that level of stress. The day I met her, she had come into my office and the front-end staff member had asked for an imprint of her credit card, which is pretty standard when you come in to start treatment. She thought he was going to steal her identity and was going up one side of him and down the other side.   I went out and broke up this altercation and brought her back into the room to start a treatment.

As she gave me her history and told me about her problems, she was getting in two words for every breath. She was unable to speak a full sentence.  She was very short of breath and had a significant upper thoracic breathing pattern.  Her diagnosis was osteoarthritis of the cervical spine. On examining her, I found that the motion of her cervical spine/ neck was extremely limited. It was about 30 to 35 degrees in both directions.  Considering it should be 70-90 degrees in each direction if you are looking to the right or left.   She was also very over-inflated.  Her lower ribs were widened. 

I helped her control her upper chest breathing for her treatment that day.  I also taught her prolonged expiration through pursed, round lips.  I taught her to breathe out slowly for up to 20 seconds. Initially, she was unable to do that but promised to work diligently on it five times a day.  That is all I did with her that day.   She came back a week later.  She was less inflated and her rib cage was lower overall.   She had been working hard on her exercises and the motion of her neck had increased at least 15 degrees in both directions just by working on her expiration and slowing down her breathing pattern and she was more relaxed.  She had managed to calm her upper chest breathing and reduce the tightness and tone of all of the accessory breathing muscles in her chest.

Symptoms that are seen with sub-optimal breathing patterns are difficulty breathing, poor sleep, and anxiety.   People will often complain of heart palpitations, gut pain, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) nausea, noncardiac chest pain, and chronic pelvic pain. They can have tingling in their hands and feet, clammy hands, fatigue, achy muscles, achy joints, sensations of dizziness, feelings of brain fog, irritability and a feeling of air, hunger, and gasping for air.

Poor breathing patterns can also contribute to postural problems and musculoskeletal pain. When the muscles of the neck, upper back, and chest are overused due to inefficient breathing patterns, it can lead to tension and pain in these areas, as well as contribute to poor posture.

Overall, it is important to be aware of your breathing patterns and take steps to improve them if necessary. Specific breathing exercises can reduce the negative clinical implications of poor breathing.

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