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back pain

Mid-Back Tension

“Lungs are meant to be
squished” – Ron Hruska
Well, I could not have said it better myself. Lungs ARE meant to be squished, but for lungs to be able to “squish,” expand, contract, and move there needs to be mobility in the surrounding cage, otherwise known as the rib cage. The rib cage encapsulates your lungs, protecting this precious tissue by surrounding it and allowing the lungs to expand and contract without restriction, damage, or harm.

Think about it. We can go for weeks without food, days without water, but we can only go for a few minutes without air. Your body will do anything to get air/oxygen into your system. Oxygen is what we all think of when it comes to the importance of breathing. But…if you breathe through your mouth (mouth breathing is not a compliment for a reason) your breathing will be excessive and shallow and will thus lead to a DECREASE in your body’s ability to absorb oxygen.

Believe it or not, it is the amount of CO2 we have in our systems that regulate the amount of oxygen our bodies can intake and utilize for performance, energy, strength gains, weight loss and relaxation. If our breathing is shallow and fast as a result of mouth breathing, this decreases the amount of CO2 we have in our bodies because we are constantly exhaling it out too quickly. Breathing through your nose, for longer and slower inhales and exhales, prolongs the CO2 in our systems which allows red blood cells to absorb and utilize more oxygen!

I often tell my clients that movement is driven by breath and breath only. If we do not have air to breathe, we do not have life, and therefore we do not have movement. We breathe in and out an average of 21,000 times a day. We do this more than any other activity. So, when you think about it, of course air is what drives our ability to move.

mid-back tension

But what if the rib cage itself is restricted and prevents good airflow, expansion, or contraction of the lungs?

Without expansion, the body is forced to resort to rapid shallow breathing which leads to hyperventilation, poor use of oxygen, health related respiratory issues and disease, increased cardiac demand and increased sympathetic drive, anxiety, and panic.

For the rib cage to expand and contract, it has to integrate with the pelvis, spine, neck and cranium in the correct manner. The diaphragm must be able to contract and relax to its fullest potential. This is done through proper joint positioning and muscle inhibition/facilitation which then allows the ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, cartilage and joint surfaces to move through a full range of motion without undue stress occurring on these structures.

One simple example to think about for comparison: if the hip has limited range of motion because the pelvis is tipped too far forward, this can lead to hip impingement, SI joint pain, labral tears, pelvic incontinence…the list goes on and on.

Increased compression of the mid back with lack of ability to expand our lungs can lead to increased sympathetic fight or flight stimulus causing poor sleep, anxiety, panic, and pain. How many of you suffer from discomfort between your shoulder blades or feel tension in the upper shoulders? This is exactly my point.

So, breath is the driver. Breathing is vitally important for overall health. Movement driven by proper breathing allows for compression, expansion, and alternating movement from side to side in a controlled manner. This creates proper positioning, which is the only way to manage pain long term.

If you are seeking to decrease your pain, improve movememnt, increase personal performance, lose weight, and feel better; reach out to me today.
- Paige McNerthney MPT, PRC, PCES, CSCS, CKTP