The vast majority of people with neck pain have a limited ability to breathe correctly. People in pain tend to start using their neck and shoulder muscles to help with breathing and end up creating more pain and stiffness. The muscles in our neck and shoulders are actually accessory muscles and when we overly depend on them to breathe it can cause undue compression and stress on joints in the neck and tend to throw us into postures that are not "the position of least stress".
Let Me See Your Belly
The best way to break this cycle is to learn how to Belly Breathe. This is what is called diaphramatic breathing. The diaphram is a large dome shaped muscle inside our trunk that you can't easily touch. It is underneath the rib cage and when it contracts the chest cavity gets larger allowing the lungs to fill with oxygen. After all, oxygen is key. This is why you may have heard a lot of recommendations for belly breathing in various fitness or meditation classes. More effective influx of oxygen makes all systems function better. Learning belly breathing can immediately reduce spasm and tightness in muscles, increase calm, reduce anxiety and increase oxygen in the body.
One Way to Practice
Sitting in relaxed posture with back rest. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Slowly breathe in through your nose trying to make the hand on your belly rise, while the hand on your chest remains still. Exhale gently. Repeat for 3-5 minutes twice a day to help reduce tension in your neck and body. Notice that your neck and upper chest muscles do not have to work and you can maintain your neck and shoulder position in a relaxed position when you can get your belly to move and not your upper hand.
Breathing has become a hot topic in the medicine, self care, fitness, performance.... well, all realms these days and for good reason. There are places you can go for guided breathing and breathwork and once to take a deeper dive into the background of what is happening when we learn more effective ways to move oxygen you'll see there is a fascinating progression of knowledge on this subject and its not stopping soon. Here is a fascinating book that goes through the history of the development of these practices.
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