Low Back pain is very common, and once it occurs the chance of it happening again is very high. In order to prevent the reoccurrence of low back pain we have to find out what the triggers are, but what if there was something we do every day that could help prevent the onset and reoccurrence of low back pain.
It would be like our own insurance for our low back, and the best part is it’s free! So what is this free low back insurance? Well the answer will probably surprise you… Breathing. I know what you are thinking, breathing? I breathe every day and I still have back pain. The question is do you breathe properly? Take a minute, put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach and breathe normally and see if you feel it more in your chest or into your stomach. With proper breathing you should feel it more into your stomach than chest.
You may be thinking what is the difference, isn’t breathing, breathing? Sadly that isn’t the case, breathing into your stomach and making a solid cylinder with air is actually the proper respiratory pattern. Unfortunately, due to our activities of daily living and the vanity of society, most people suck in their stomach and breathe with their chest which not only can cause issues with your low back, but the neck as well.
Mechanics of Breathing
The primary inspiratory (inhalation) muscle for breathing is the diaphragm, which is located around the rib cage. Expiration, letting air out, during normal breathing is achieved by a passive phenomenon. When the diaphragm relaxes it causes an elastic recoil, passively returning the lungs and chest wall back to their normal resting volume. During times of exertion accessory muscles are recruited.
As we inhale the diaphragm lowers generating increased pressure into the abdomen, expanding it 360 degrees. This causes the muscles of the abdomen to expand and contract eccentrically, activating all the muscles of the abdomen. This creates the “solid core” you always hear you need if you have low back pain. Simply breathing properly improves core strength, and creates a stable base for the spine and to create movement.
Low Back Insurance
Research has found the diaphragm to be an important stabilizer of the spine. They have studied the role of diaphragm activity and breathing during movement screening and what they found was those who were able to generate greater intra-abdominal pressure(IAP) scored better on the movement screens. Simply by breathing properly and generating IAP you are able to improve the quality of movement.
Think of a baby and how they have such full bellies, this is essential for their development. They have to be able to generate IAP to give them the stable base to start developing movement such as lifting their legs, rolling over, sitting up, etc. In the world’s strongest man competition they lift atlas stones weighing 220lbs-352lbs. They do the one thing you always tell patients not to do; they lift a large load with a lot of rounding of the spine. However, they are able to do it without issue, why is that? They wrap there spine around the stone stabilizing their spine against the stone. It is the same thing with breathing, we are able to generate intra-abdominal pressure to hug the spine to keep it safe.
Breathing properly and generating IAP is your personal insurance policy for your low back. Whether you are bending over to pick up a golf ball or deadlifting 300+lbs, it helps to stabilize and protect the spine. This will also improve movement and reduce tension in the erectors of the low back.
If you have any questions or want a free consultation, contact TROSS today! One of our highly qualified doctors will be happy to answer any questions you have and help guide you in the right direction. TROSS proudly serves the Cottleville, St. Peters, St. Charles, St. Louis and O’Fallon communities!
- Bradley H, Dr. Esformes J. BREATHING PATTERN DISORDERS AND FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2014;9(1):28-39.
- Pictures: NSCA Stability and Weightlifting- Mechanics of Stabilization- Part 1 and Rich Ulm