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What does the way you breathe say about you?

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Belly breathing vs Chest breathing

In our last post we talked about intra-abdominal pressure and belly breathing. Today were going to go over the most common improper breathing pattern and dysfunctions that either arise from it or perpetuate it- chest breathing.

Ask your friend, partner or spouse to take a deep breath and watch their movement. Did their shoulders raise as they inhaled? Did their ribs flare? Did their stomach suck in? Did they arch their back?

Chest breathing isn’t just suboptimal for oxygen intake but can also lead to imbalances and pain down the road in virtually any muscle or joint complex. While that sounds like a tall claim- consider that our abdomen is the foundation from which all limbs are attached and if that foundation is unstable, the potential for instability can happen everywhere. What can be worse than instability? Compensatory patterns that provide stability… at a cost.

In the last blog post, we talked about IAP, and maintaining a cylinder of stability within our abdomen. This cylinder exists, thanks to the parallel relationship between our diaphragm and pelvic floor (A). A dysfunctional breathing pattern will typically result in this parallel relationship being broken. One of the most common relationships being what we call an “open scissor” pattern in which the rib cage tilts upwards, as the pelvis tilts forwards (B).

This “open scissor” relationship prevents us from creating stability by disrupting our ability to utilize IAP by instead opting utilizing a lumbar extension/compression stability pattern- recognized by the arch in the low back. This creates tightness in muscles of the low back while creating a lengthening of the muscles in the front. The abdominal muscles, left un-strengthened, create something of a feed forward mechanism that can further potentiate the extension/compression stability pattern.

By preparing the “ceiling” (diaphragm) and the “floor” (pelvic floor) of the cylinder, we allow for muscles comprising of the walls (core) to maintain an equal and balanced relationship. This stable arrangement allows for use to distribute pressure equally. The pressure that you can created within is an expansive pressure that can help mitigate compressive forces on the spine.

In our office, we use many methods of evaluating dysfunction. Aside from our eyes and hands, we use a tool called the Core 630 belt. This belt is wrapped around your abdomen with pressure sensors to determine if you are creating positive pressure (IAB) or negative pressure. This tool not only helps us with evaluation but helps patients connect with their body and see the changes associated with doing so (biofeedback). This is done by allowing them to watch the pressure graph change as they walk, sit, stand, pick things up or even just breath.

Our next blog post is going to be more show and less tell, with a series of videos how to practice IAB and core stability. We will take you through some basic positions, things to focus on, and how to progress them.


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