Breathing Pattern Disorders

Full article here  Breathing Pattern Disorders

I was very fortunate to attend an intimately small workshop with Leon Chaitow last week discussing manual therapy approaches to breathing pattern disorders.  I have not been shy about sharing how much I have learned from Chaitow and his extensive body of work, so spending a day with him was awesome!

Below is summary of some of the main points of the course that I thought would be worth sharing.  These are all direct statements from the workshop and are from his textbook on Breathing Pattern Disorders if you want to learn more or see some of the efficacy and references.

What is a Breathing Pattern Disorder?

  • While 10% of patients in the US have diagnosed hyperventilation syndrome, far more people have a more subtle, yet likely clinically significant, breathing pattern disorder that involves being in a constant state of inhalation.
  • This leads to hypocapnia – the deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood due to hyperventilation, leading to respiratory alkalosis, and eventually hypoxia or the reduction of oxygen to tissue
  • This is commonly seen in chest breathers, that essentially never fully exhale and utilize all of their lung capacity.
  • This essentially puts an individual in a sympathetic state and a subtle, yet fairly constant state of fight-or-flight
  • This can lead to changes in anxiety, blood pH, muscle tone, pain threshold, and many central and peripheral nervous system symptoms.  Some even mimicking cardiac problems.
  • Some of the most interesting info I learned were related to two studies that document the correlation between breathing and some of our daily activities.
    • In one, the study examined typing on a keyboard and showed that EMG activity of the scalenes and trapezius increased and thorax and abdominal activity decreased while typing.  Perhaps this is a primitive reflex but it causes us to breathe more shallow, with less diaphragm, and with more upper chest and neck.  Since we all likely spend a good chunk of our day typing, this is very prevalent.
    • In another, the study showed that people held their breath, increased their respiratory rate, and experienced sympathetic arousal when sending AND receiving text messages.

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