resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Capturing the Essence of Tai Chi
Over the last 12 years, I have been working on one of the few documentaries about Tai Chi. It's called The Professor: Tai Chi's Journey West and it's about Cheng Man-Ching who moved to New York in the 1960s.
The Acupuncture Now Foundation: What Our Profession Needs
Although acupuncture is growing in popularity it continues to be underutilized due to misunderstandings about its true potential. Only a fraction of those who could be helped by acupuncture know enough to seek it out.
Chronic heightened emotional states create a perfect breeding ground for illness. Through my practice I noted the increasingly obvious relationship between one's mental focus on negative thinking, emotions, resistance to experiencing feelings and disease.
Giving Chiropractic Some Much-Needed PR
Public relations has not always been the chiropractic profession's strong suit, a shortcoming that has subjected the profession to countless attacks on its legitimacy and seemingly perpetual confusion among the public and the health care world as to the skills and services doctors of chiropractic provide.
Meat in the Middle
Have you ever wondered what's the truth about meat? Is it really as bad as many people think?
News in Brief
Foundation for Chiropractic Progress Enrolls Second Group Member; Focus on Chiropractic Education at WFC-ACC Conference in Miami; Are You Ready for Another "Have-a-Heart" Campaign?
Following the Thinking of the Classics
I have heard about the "best time of day" to carry out certain examinations or therapies. For example, I remember making a note years ago that early morning is the best time to take someone's pulses.
Acupuncture Detox as Part of Drug Rehabilitation
In the U.S., more than 2,000 alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs have added ear acupuncture to their practice. The development of the protocol was determined by Lincoln Hospital as it delivered 100 acupuncture treatments daily.
Treating Menopausal Women in Your Practice
I love what I do for a living. It's a great way to trade health for bread. And no topic of health, with the right bedside manner, is taboo.
"Turn, Turn, Turn"
Many people are credited with saying, "If you remember the '60s, you really weren't there." Given the fact I didn't become a teenager until 1970, I actually do remember the '60s (or at least part of it). And as a child of the '60s, I was, of course, influenced by the music.
Alcohol Consumption Strongly Linked to Risk of Colorectal Cancer
Alcohol intake is one of the primary risk factors for many human cancers, and is strongly associated with cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast, and notably, the colon and rectum.
Peer Points: Promoting TCM Knowledge
When Elaine Wolf Komarow, LAc, received her first acupuncture treatment in 1989, she said it changed her life. "I felt more aware, calmer, and happier. I was so fascinated by the changes that I began to learn everything I could about the underlying philosophy of Chinese medicine," said Komarow.
The McGill Approach to the Lower Back (Part 1)
Stuart McGill, PhD, brings a unique combination of tools to the table. He is a scientist who also functions as a clinician. He describes himself as a medical consultant who is referred challenging patients. He is both evidence based and practical.
Drug War Rages in Wisconsin
Based on its actions over the past 15 years (review the sidebar in the app version of this article), controversy and the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association seem to go hand in hand.
Implications of Section 2706: The Non-Discrimination Provision Survey
In late April 2014, NCCAOM diplomates received an email survey with the subject line: "End discrimination against acupuncturists" polling CAM practitioners for a Request for Information from the Department of Health and Human Services, released in mid-March.
Introduce Your Patients to Collagen Induction Therapy
Cutaneous (skin) aging generally occurs from either intrinsic or extrinsic processes. Intrinsic aging results from natural skin tissue damage and degeneration.
The Bottom Line ... From a Surgeon Who Knows
Regardless of individual relationships between providers, there continues to be a type of Hatfield-McCoy feud between the philosophies of medicine and chiropractic, particularly when it comes to musculoskeletal ailments.
Micro-Needle Dermal Roller Use in the Treatment Room
Recently micro-needle dermal rollers have been getting a lot of media attention. As a practitioner who specializes in acupuncture facial rejuvenation, I know that skin needling with a dermal roller (also known as collagen induction therapy), promotes the natural reproduction of collagen and elastin, making the skin feel smoother and tighter.
Correcting Dysfunctional Movement Patterns – Is Local Treatment Enough?
It is widely believed that mechanical, non-traumatic back pain is largely related to dysfunctional or compensatory movement patterns the body has adopted over time.
It Pays to be a Foodie
If there is an inner foodie in you, just waiting to burst out—this article is for you! Do you want to know how I know? I'm that girl. My middle name might as well be "Foodie." I love food! And if my patients are any indication, many of them do as well.
Finders Keepers: The Secret to Relationship-Based Marketing
Becoming a successful practitioner has less to do with what you learned in school, and more to do with your ability to find new patients and keep them!
The Power of Mu Xiang to Treat Irritable Bowel Disease
Bloating and gas pain is something that everyone has had to deal with at one point or another; however, that's usually reserved for holiday dinners and other large gatherings.
Five Element Acupuncture Can Enhance Your Practice
For eight years I have been teaching and supervising TCM students at an acupuncture college in Colorado, in Five Element acupuncture.
Treating Chronic Depression with Acupressure
In Traditional Chinese Medicine there already exists a comprehensive theory linking the body and mind.
Inspire Your Patients to Make Healthy Choices
Have you tried to get your patients to change their eating habits or their diet and couldn't get them to succeed? Were they confused and unsure of what the right thing was to eat? You are not alone!
Chinese Medicine: The Natural Way to Children's Wellness
As a child, I did not like going to the doctor. For the most part, when I had to go I wasn't feeling good to begin with, and I was heading into a sterile environment to be awkwardly probed by a man in a white coat for a very short, impersonal period of time.
October, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 10
Breathing Patterns, Connective Tissue and Soft-Shelled Eggs
By Leon Chaitow, ND, DO
If the title of this article stirs your curiosity, hopefully by the end all should be clear, and you will be able to explain to a colleague just how increased levels of pain, soft-shelled eggs, and how you breathe are linked.
With implications ranging from increased fascial tone to colonic spasms, menstrual distress, pseudo-angina attacks, epileptic seizures, profound fatigue, muscle cramps, brain-fog, lowered pain thresholds, sympathetic arousal, increased sensitivity to light and sound, and feelings of extreme anxiety - I hope you will see I am not exaggerating when I say this is a topic worth understanding!22 This is a topic likely to be particularly relevant to your work with vulnerable, chronically painful and fatigued patients.
Before making these connections, though, I need to offer a brief summary of a personal health episode. I have shared this information with various audiences before (e.g., AMTA Conference, Nashville, October 2004), when attempting to highlight just how powerful and immediate the effects of respiratory alkalosis can be.
Back in 1998, I had flown from London to Edinburgh to make a video for my publishers to accompany my book on muscle energy techniques. It was a long day in a hot studio, accompanied by time pressures relating to the need to complete the shoot on time, and I had a plane to catch. I had skipped breakfast, consumed more coffee than usual, and had forgotten to drink enough water. These details are all relevant to what followed, as will become clear. Around mid-afternoon, I felt a strange sensation in my left leg. A mild tingle was passing down toward the foot, before fading away. This repeated itself a number of times over a period of an hour or so, but I paid little attention and focused on the details of the video shoot. The next day, safely back in London, the same mild symptom became more insistent and frequent, and then started to affect my left arm as well. Within an hour or so, it was accompanied by a strong spasm of the left leg and arm muscles, and finally of the whole left side of my body, including my face. This tetanic seizure convinced me I was having a stroke, and so I headed rapidly to the emergency room of my local hospital.
To cut a long story short, I was admitted to a neurological ward, spent a week being prodded, poked, observed and investigated - including a battery of neurological tests, cardiac investigations, blood tests and MRI scans. Nothing was found to be abnormal (not bad for a 60-year-old!). Finally, an enlightened neurologist had me wired up to an ECG machine, and asked me to breathe rapidly for two minutes. Within 30 seconds, all of my symptoms came back, with a severe contracture affecting my left side from face to foot.
"Ah," said this gifted physician (him, not me). "Your problem is hyperventilation. Go away and learn how to breathe." I did.
This life-changing experience turned out to be a turning point in my life and career focus. As a moderately successful osteopath and naturopath, I had long been aware of the importance of balanced breathing and had written about it in relation to stress management. But now, following this episode (which has never recurred), the topic became a virtual obsession. As mentioned in a previous article in Massage Today (April 2005), when I feel I need to study a subject deeply, I write a book about it. The end result of this experience was a text co-authored with physical therapist Dina Bradley and psychologist Chris Gilbert.6
I have spent the past seven or eight years with breathing pattern disorders as a top priority (for myself and my patients), and have studied as many aspects of breathing dysfunction and rehabilitation as I could. I am convinced this should be among the most important aspects of the work of all those engaged in health care, particularly manual and massage therapists.
So, what actually happens when we overbreathe? I will try to summarize a complicated sequence: As we exhale, we eliminate carbon-dioxide (CO2). This is recruited from carbonic acid that circulates in the blood. If breathing is more rapid than is ideal for the current needs of the body, we lose too much CO2 (and therefore carbonic acid), and the blood becomes more alkaline than normal.16 This creates a state of respiratory alkalosis: the blood's pH moves from a normal of around 7.4 to perhaps as much as 7.5.16 Not much change, you might say, but what a difference it makes! The effects are dramatic. Anxiety appears (and therefore, so does even faster breathing) - aggravating the feelings of anxiety or even panic.10,13 Smooth muscles constrict. And since these surround all of the "tubes" of the body, this creates a narrowing of blood vessels and interferes with normal digestion and bladder function.9 A process known as the Bohr effect starts, causing the red blood cells to bind more tightly to the oxygen molecules they carry. This means not only less blood gets to the brain and muscles, but also less oxygen is released by the blood that does get through, creating profound fatigue and a lack of mental clarity or "brain-fog."22 Sympathetic arousal occurs, creating altered neural function - more rapid reflex functions, lowered pain threshold, and sensitivity to all stimuli.23 Balance is disturbed.2 The kidneys try to rebalance the increased alkalinity by excreting bicarbonates, and a generalized imbalance occurs in the calcium and magnesium levels in the body, causing even more neurological mayhem, with cramps and spasms becoming more likely, accompanied by numbness, pins and needles and possibly pain.12 These changes provide a superb environment for the evolution of myofascial trigger points, as these are known to evolve in ischemic tissues where oxygen levels are low.18 All this is pretty terrifying, and does little to calm the breathing rate!
Chronic fatigue and chronic pain problems (such as fibromyalgia) are characterized by just such breathing patterns, as are a host of other health problems, most of which can at the very least be improved by better breathing, while many can be completely eliminated.4,20 All of these symptoms are more likely in deconditioned individuals, because of the way their cells produce ATP (energy) in an anaerobic environment, creating acid wastes that then further stimulate the breathing rate.16
How Widespread Are BPDs?
Breathing pattern disorders or BPDs (about which the notes above offer a description) are up to seven times more common in women and are more likely during the post-ovulation/premenstrual period because of increased progesterone levels.7 And they are much more likely to manifest when blood sugar levels are low. Recall my lack of breakfast, my coffee intake and dehydration.3 It has been estimated that the symptoms of at least 10 percent of all people seeking medical advice in the U.S. are the result of a BPD.13,15,16
Why do so many people breathe in an upper-chest, rapid pattern? There are many reasons for feeling anxious and stressed, or holding an "image" posture with a protruding chest and flat stomach, or of having mild asthmatic tendencies. But according to experts who have spent their professional lives studying breathing pattern disorders in general and hyperventilation in particular, whatever the background or original trigger, the main cause is pure habit.15
As a person becomes habituated to shallow breathing, the body learns to tolerate very low levels of CO2 in the blood and this becomes the "normal" for that person. In order to maintain this low CO2 level, rapid upper chest breathing is necessary. Relearning to tolerate higher levels of CO2 is a useful part of breathing retraining, achieved by focus on a slow exhalation and sometimes by specialized breath holding exercises based on the Russian Buteyko system.5,8
It's useful when thinking about the "habit" of upper chest breathing to think of another common habit: poor posture. The slouched, round-shouldered, chin-poked, belly-sagging posture of so many people is something of which we as bodyworkers are all too aware.22 How do you change poor posture into better posture? By retraining (such as the Alexander technique), combined with appropriate therapeutic interventions to stretch tight muscles and tone weakened ones, often aided by home-work such as Pilates-type exercises. Slowly, over a period of months, it often is possible to turn poor posture into better, or even good, posture.
Exactly the same applies to breathing pattern disorders. Manual therapy/massage methods are helpful in preparing the structures for better breathing and the person needs to do homework to re-establish a better pattern. This has, in many studies often involved severely anxious hyperventilators or people with severe balance disorders, taken up to six months to normalize, with some people improving within a few weeks.10,19
Mild forms of asthma and hyperventilation are almost identical, and the diagnosis given depends on the particular training of the doctor making the call. This can be pretty important because mild hyperventilation is curable, while a diagnosis of asthma often is a sentence to a lifetime of medication.
The Fascial Connection
As mentioned earlier, contractile smooth muscle cells have been found to be present in enormous numbers in most connective tissue. Their main function appears to be that, following injury, proliferation occurs allowing them to act as architectural supports to the damaged tissue as it heals.21 The cells in connective tissue, like other contractile smooth muscle cells, are affected by changes in pH21 (as in respiratory alkalosis), suggesting that a generalized increase in fascial tone occurs as pH rises, making all muscles feel more tense and impacting directly on musculoskeletal integrity. Just how much effect pH changes have on these cells remains a matter of ongoing research, and I hope to report to you on this when results emerge.1,11,24
A Fowl Story17
During the 1980s, a commercial egg farmer noticed his hens were laying soft-shelled eggs. The birds were being housed in very crowded and hot conditions, and the option of making them free range or installing air-conditioning was not economically possible. Veterinary experts decided that, as the birds were obviously hyperventilating, their calcium metabolism was disturbed, leading to the egg problem. They provided the hens with carbonated water (CO2 dissolved in water), and shortly after that, the egg quality returned to normal.
What we can learn from this is that the symptoms of hyperventilation (calcium disturbance in this instance) can be modified by biochemical interventions. The farmer's problem was solved, but the stress of the chickens was untouched. Other choices might have been tried - for example calming music, soothing aromas, massage, craniosacral therapy or even reflexology - any or all of which might well have had a calming effect, resulting in slower breathing. But what would have really helped the chickens was unavailable (free range life, air conditioning, etc).
Now consider your stressed, highly pressured patients, with multiple minor symptoms. Through massage and/or reflexology and/or aromatherapy you probably offer such complex, highly stressed individuals safe, symptomatic relief and moments of calm. This helps them cope with their own version of the hell the chickens were enduring. But what would help them most would probably be a cash infusion, a new job, a new hip, possibly a new relationship/spouse or some other life-changing event you are quite unable to provide. But you can teach them to respond to the stress/pain/fatigue differently; and you can efficiently and gently soften and mobilize their tense tissues. And above all, you can learn how to teach them to breathe differently.
Please let the editor of Massage Today and/or me know if you would like this particular article to be followed up with more detail on breathing rehabilitation from the perspective of a bodyworker.2,6,8
Click here for more information about Leon Chaitow, ND, DO.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.