When we have pain or become stressed we can develop a rapid or shallow breathing pattern. This breathing pattern can increase tension in the neck, chest, and shoulders. Overtime, this increased tension can lead to trigger point formations which can produce specific pain patterns.
When trigger points become active they can cause referral pain. Typically, these patterns travel up the neck, and above, around, and along the sides of the head. These pain patterns are often the source of headaches and migraines. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing strategies can decrease the activity and intensity of these trigger points and associated pain patterns. Diaphragmatic breathing is the body’s pain control center which can directly change the chemical-hormone response to stress. Deep breathing can increase the release of natural opiates (morphine and serotonin). It’s important to note belly breathing is NOT diaphragmatic breathing.
Frownfelter D, Dean E. Principles and Practice of Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 1996.
Kolar P, Sulc J, Kyncl M, et al. Postural function of the diaphragm in persons with and without chronic low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42:352-362.
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