Chiropractors often see people with neck pain and tight shoulders! Many of them have recurrent neck pain, tight shoulders and chest, even after a massage, physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment. Sometimes we all miss out on the smallest but very important clue; breathing.
Breathing is something running in the background, you do not need to think to breathe. Your respiratory center located in your brainstem controls your breath rate and the depth depends on your physiological state.(1) Primarily, the diaphragm is the muscle responsible for controlling the air pressure in your lungs to pull oxygen in and push carbon dioxide out from your lungs.
Looking at human anatomy, the nerve supply of the diaphragm originates from cervical nerve root C3, C4 and C5. Research showed patients who suffer from chronic neck pain were more likely to have problems with respiratory strength than patients without neck pain.(2)
When there is a decrease oxygen intake due to various causes such as weakness in our diaphragm, our intelligent system will recruit accessory muscles to help us get adequate oxygen into our body to maintain our homeostasis and basic functions.(1) These accessory muscles include the sternocleidomastoid(SCM), pectoralis major and minor, serratus anterior, latissimus dorsi, and serratus posterior superior.(1) In short, they are your neck and chest muscles.
Over time, accessory muscles can get overworked, fatigued and they become tight, as they don’t get to rest and recover while you are asleep because you are always breathing!
Taking care of the true cause of your neck and shoulder tightness rather than focusing on the end stage symptoms is the best tactic. Otherwise it is analogous to looking at the muffler for the cause as to why the car is blowing out smoke, rather that looking at the engine.
We will look into some tips regarding how to breathe properly in the coming blogs. Stay tuned!
If this sounds like you or your loved ones, feel free to have a chat with one of our chiropractors and see how we can help manage your issues.
1. Tortora GJ, Derrickson BH. Principles of anatomy and physiology: John Wiley & Sons; 2018.
2. Dimitriadis Z, Kapreli E, Strimpakos N, Oldham J. Respiratory weakness in patients with chronic neck pain. Manual therapy. 2013;18(3):248-53.
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