How Does Poor Posture Impact Your Breathing? Your Mid-Back Matters!
There are two kinds of curves that exist in the spine: kyphotic curves, which your mid-back has and are more rounded, and lordotic curves, which are present in your neck and low back. Each curve serves a purpose and plays a role in our posture as upright beings. With advancements in technology and changes in work environments, there is an increasing prevalence of Upper Cross Syndrome.
What is Upper Cross Syndrome?
Upper Cross Syndrome is a condition where the head moves forward and the shoulders become rounded. This causes some muscles to become tight or facilitated, such as the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), pectoralis (major and minor), upper trapezius, and levator scapulae. Other muscles, like the deep cervical neck flexors, lower trapezius, and serratus anterior, become weak or inhibited. This can occur from being a student, working at a desk job, or even while casually scrolling through social media.
The Implications of Forward Head Posture
When the head moves forward, the spine is impacted. The weight of the head pulls the neck downward, and this is compensated for by the eyes, which always find the horizon. Over time, the mid-back adopts more of a C-shape, and this not only affects the spine but also influences muscular changes.
The Mechanics of Breathing
Our diaphragm is the primary muscle for breathing. Accessory muscles include the scalene, SCM, pectoralis major, trapezius, and external intercostals. When our thoracic spine takes on a new shape, it compresses the diaphragm, preventing it from functioning properly. This causes the body to rely more on the already tight accessory muscles for breathing.
Why Correct Breathing is Important
To breathe correctly, inhale through your nose and expand your belly first, not your chest. Ideally, your diaphragm should do all the work, creating pressure in your abdomen, obliques, and back. Breathing like this brings several benefits, including decreased stress, increased core stability, improved thoracic mobility, and reduced neck and trap tension.
Symptoms of Poor Posture and Breathing
Tight traps and pecs
Experiencing a "rib out"
Headaches that start at the base of your neck
Limited shoulder mobility
How We Help at Alpha Sports
Using a foam roller and lacrosse ball correctly
Nelson, Nicole MS, LMT. "Diaphragmatic Breathing: The Foundation of Core Stability." Strength and Conditioning Journal 34(5):p 34-40, October 2012. DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31826ddc07
Kang, J. Y., et al. "Effectiveness of breathing exercises on spinal posture, mobility, and stabilization in patients with lumbar instability." Korean Society of Physical Medicine, 13(3), 81-89, 2018.
Cheon, J. H., et al. "Differences of spinal curvature, thoracic mobility, and respiratory strength between chronic neck pain patients and people without cervical pain." Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, 44(1), 58-68, 2020.