Did you know that an activity you do all day, every day may have the power to reduce your back pain?
Back pain can be seriously debilitating, having an impact on every aspect of our lives. If you experience back pain, you’ve likely already tried a range of medications and treatments to improve your condition.
However, there’s now a lot of evidence that developing some healthy breathing habits can help you reduce back pain, or eliminate it from your life once and for all.
The muscles you use to help you breathe are connected to your lumbar vertebrae (the five vertebra between your rib cage and pelvis). Careful, controlled breathing may help you ease tension in these muscles and correct your spinal alignment.
Most cases of lower back pain are due to strain on the bones, muscles, and ligaments of the spine. Other causes can be more serious, so it’s always worth getting back pain checked by your doctor, physiotherapist or spinal specialist.
If you want to be more comfortable, there are a number of breathing exercises for back pain that you can try.
Try a simple back-opening breathing exercise
Start by taking a couple of deep breaths. Where does the air sit – can you feel it filling out your belly? If you can, or your lower belly sticks out when you inhale, you could be breathing incorrectly. A simple exercise in back-opening breathing will help you improve your posture and reduce back pain.
Find a comfortable position. You can practice this technique in any position, but it’s important to make sure your weight feels evenly distributed. Sitting upright (without over-extending your posture) is often an easy place to start.
- Breathe in and send the air towards your tailbone.
- Continue to breath and feel the air traveling up the back of your ribcage to lift the ribs off the hips.
- Breathe out and pull your lower abs up towards your bottom back ribs.
- As you finish breathing out, allow your shoulder blades to drop down, lengthening your upper back.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique
- Firstly, sit or lie in a comfortable position. Put the tip of your tongue just behind your upper teeth and breathe out through your mouth gently.
- Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose while counting to 4.
- Hold your breath while counting to 7.
- Finally, breathe out completely through your mouth slowly while counting to 8.
Practice the diaphragmatic breathing technique
Your diaphragm, a muscle at the base of your lungs, tightens when you breathe in and moves downward. This creates more space in your chest and lets your lungs expand.
Learning how to breathe from the diaphragm, instead of shallow breathing, is important in helping to manage back pain.
- Lie on your back or sit comfortably.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand just beneath your ribcage.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and feel your belly move out against your hand. Make sure the hand on your chest stays as still as possible.
- Breathe out through pursed lips and pull your abdominal muscles in towards your rib cage. Again, make sure the hand on your chest stays still.
If you’re curious to learn more about breathing technique to manage back pain, it’s important to speak to a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist or spinal consultant can help you find the true cause of your back pain and work with you to develop a tailored plan to get relief from the pain.
“Breathing techniques is one of the many contributors to chronic back pain that usually goes unrecognised and untreated. We particularly see patients with respiratory conditions such as COPD, asthma, or if issues such as anxiety, stress, sleep apnea, having an altered breathing pattern. It is crucial that our breathing pattern is efficient and effective to ensure the best function of our core stability and contribute to the improvement of back pain.” Mr Gun (Kevin) Kang, Physiotherapist of The Brisbane Spine Clinic.