Did you know that you can breathe “wrong”?

Your “diaphragm” is the dome shaped muscle beneath your lungs. When it contracts and flattens, you breathe in. When it relaxes, you breathe out. But do you know your diaphragm plays an important secondary role in protecting your trunk and spine by controlling abdominal pressure?

The muscles that support your trunk form a “canister.” The front and sides of the canister are created by your abdominal and rib muscles. The back of the canister includes those muscles attached to your spine. The bottom of the canister is formed by the muscles of your pelvic floor, while your diaphragm serves as the roof. Together, these muscles control your abdominal pressure and core stability.

A well-braced core provides a stable foundation for moving your arms, legs, and head – in much the same way that when firing a canon, a large ship serves as a better platform than a rowboat.

During normal breathing, your upper chest should remain relatively still. Patients with “dysfunctional” patterns frequently overuse their upper chest muscles instead of their abdomen and lower rib cage. This depressurizes and destabilizes your core, leading to other problems like back pain.

You should not need to always think about proper breathing – this should happen subconsciously. Unfortunately, many of us have “learned” poor mechanics and need to re-learn proper breathing. One of the easiest ways to re-train proper breathing is to sit or lie still with one head on your breastbone and the other hand on your abdomen. When you breathe in, only the hand on your abdomen should move, while the hand on your chest remains still. Your normal breathing rhythm should be about there seconds of inhalation followed by six seconds of exhalation. If you find that you are exhaling too quickly, you may try “pursing” your lips to gradually increase the length of your exhalation.

The exercises that follow are essential for your recovery. Once you have restored normal breathing mechanics, you will enjoy increased core stability and your treatment will be much more successful. It is important to perform your breathing exercises consistently, as repetitive exercise will allow your body “re-learn” to subconsciously move in a safe and a coordinated fashion- thereby reducing your risk of injury.


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