resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Low Back Pain in Professional Golf: A Common Muscular Relationship
Every sport creates its own unique demands on the body. Some sports require such a myriad of body positions that assessing pathology is often difficult and unpredictable.
Turning a Blind Eye to History – and Reality
The American Medical Association is taking the Supreme Court's Feb. 25, 2015 decision exactly as it always does – by turning a blind eye to history, legal precedent and reality.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
A View From the ER
The University of Western States has inked an innovative agreement with local nonprofit health system Legacy Health whereby UWS sports-medicine fellows can experience observational clinical rotations in emergency-room settings within the Legacy system.
Term Limits: What's in a Word?
It was the French historian and philosopher Voltaire who once declared the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.
Talking to Patients About Lumbar Facet Denervation (Medial Branch Neurotomy)
Lumbar facet denervation, more appropriately termed medial branch neurotomy (MBN), is a procedure that may be considered when patients suffer from recalcitrant non-radicular axial back and/or leg pain.
Optimism = Compassion = Trust
A randomized clinical trial recently published online in JAMA Oncology examined how patients viewed their doctor based upon how the practitioner presented bad news to the patient.
Sleep, Less Sleep or No Sleep?
I had a dream I wasn't getting enough sleep. It was a very realistic dream, even though I was probably slightly awake and not really deep dreaming. Most likely I had been dozing, caught in that twilight of sleep and wakefulness.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
Functional Hip Impingement (Part 1)
Every time I sit down to write an article, I realize how much more there is to know about musculoskeletal pain. I also learn something new every time. (I want to give special thanks to Lucy Whyte Ferguson for assisting with this article.)
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Applying the Thin Skull Principle
The "thin skull" principle, also known as the "you take your victim as you find them" principle, is a legal principle that can be summed up by the following statement.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
A House Divided?
The American Chiropractic Association's House of Delegates voted on 30 resolutions at its annual business meeting in Washington D.C., but two in particular took immediate center stage due to their controversial nature.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
December, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 12
Understanding and Rehabilitating Unbalanced Breathing
By Leon Chaitow, ND, DO
In the October issue of Massage Today,1 I outlined some of the symptoms that can be created or aggravated by Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD) such as hyperventilation.The response to this has been remarkable. I honestly can say that in the many years I have written articles and books, I have never had such a rapid and insistent response asking for more information. This follow-up article goes a small way toward meeting those requests.
This article contains information focusing on three overlapping areas: the background to BPDs, how to recognize BPD in a new client and how to begin rehabilitation. More detailed information can be found in my co-authored book published by Elsevier, Multidisciplinary Approaches to Breathing Pattern Disorders (Chaitow, Bradley & Gilbert 2002).
Back pain research and breathing rehabilitation2
A very recent research paper has been published that demonstrates another aspect of the benefit of breathing rehabilitation improvement in chronic low back pain! In this randomized, controlled study, patients with moderate chronic low back pain, of average 1-year duration, improved significantly (both pain and function) whether they were treated with either Breathing Rehabilitation or what was described as "Gold Standard" Physical Therapy. Both groups received one introductory evaluation session of 60 minutes, and 12 individual therapy sessions of equal duration of 45 minutes, over six to eight weeks.
Summary of some of the main BPD effects:3
Excessive carbon-dioxide loss causes blood pH to rise, creating respiratory alkalosis. This induces increased sympathetic arousal, altering nerve function (including motor control). It also encourages a sense of apprehension and anxiety which affects balance. Calcium and Magnesium ions are lost as the kidneys attempt to restore pH balance by excreting bicarbonate. This enhances neural sensitization, encouraging spasm and reducing pain threshold. Smooth muscle cells constrict, leading to vasoconstriction (and possibly altering fascial tone). Smooth muscle constriction can lead to colon spasm and pseudo-angina. Due to alkalinity, the so-called Bohr effect reduces oxygen release to the cells because haemoglobin retains oxygen more effectively in an alkaline environment, thus affecting tissues and the brain, encouraging ischemia, fatigue and pain. Ischemia encourages the evolution of myofascial trigger points. Overbreathing creates biomechanical overuse stresses, particularly on the accessory breathing muscles (scalenes, sternomastoid, upper trapezius, etc), as well as compromising core stability and posture.
Breathing Pattern Disorders commonly are habitual, easily recognizedand usually capable of being improved or eliminated.
Background and Definition of Breathing Pattern Disorders
The extreme of a BPD is hyperventilation, which is defined as breathing in excess of metabolic requirements. A client might show an odd arrhythmic breathing pattern and not be hyperventilating, and perhaps more importantly, might look as if they are breathing okay, but actually be hyperventilating even if apparently fit with good lung function.
About 10% of all patients attending general internal medicine practice in the U.S. are estimated to be suffering from chronic hyperventilation.4 My own clinical experience with this sort of problem suggests that a large patient population exists with BPDs who don't meet the criteria for hyperventilation, but whose breathing patterns contribute greatly to their symptom picture.
What are the Symptoms?
The vast majority of patients who chronically overbreathe in this way present with symptoms such as: fatigue, widespread pain (such as fibromyalgia), irritable bowel symptoms, chronic bladder problems, anxiety, allergies, chemical sensitivities, headaches, premenstrual syndromes, photophobia and hyperacusis. In many such conditions, BPDs rarely are causal (except perhaps where anxiety is a major feature), but they almost always are contributory, and sometimes have become a major obstacle to recovery.
As will become clear, the effects of BPDs are global, affecting all systems, having profound neurological, psychological, digestive and circulatory influences. BPDs commonly are habitual, and with a cooperative patient, usually are capable of significant improvement and are sometimes curable over a three to six month time-frame. Chronic HVS can present with respiratory, cardiac, neurological or GI symptoms, without any clinically apparent overbreathing by the patient.5
BPDs More Common in Women
HVS/BPD is female dominated, ranging from a ratio of 2:1 to 7:1 (peak ages 15-55 years). Women are more at risk possibly because progesterone is a respiratory accelerator. This also can have implications for women on hormone replacement therapy. During the post-ovulation phase, carbon dioxide levels drop about 25% and additional stress then "increases ventilation at a time when CO2 levels are already low."6
Blood Sugar and BPD
Feelings of faintness, cold sweats, weakness and disturbed consciousness are common to both hyperventilation and low blood sugar, and symptoms are far worse when both situations are present at the same time.
It also has been found that fluctuating blood glucose levels, even when these stay within normal limits, can trigger hyperventilation/BPD symptoms. People affected in this way are recommended to eat breakfast (including protein) and to avoid going without food for more than three hours or following a little-and-often, or grazing pattern of eating. This particularly is important to patients who experience panic attacks or seizures.9
Perspective of a Cardiologist
Peter Nixon a leading UK-based cardiologist reported: "When dysfunctional thoracic breathing predominates, a shift occurs towards excessive arousal, which as a catabolic state predisposes the soma towards pathology."10 Someone suffering from BPD could experience catabolic changes; protein, fat and carbohydrate synthesis halted; energy mobilized from increased breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates; blood levels of glucose, LDL and cholesterol increase; decrease in repair and replacement of bone; decrease in repair and replacement of skin and gut cells; decreased production of immune cells (thymus shrinks, less WBCs); decreased sexual function; increased blood pressure; and increased salt and fluid retention.
Why do people breathe this way? One of the major medical researchers into BPD, Claude Lum, discussed the reasons for people becoming hyperventilators, "Neurological considerations leave little doubt that habitually unstable breathing is the prime cause of symptoms. Why people breathe in this way must be a matter for speculation, but manifestly the salient characteristics are pure habit."11
Although an absolute diagnosis only can be made with CO2 monitoring using a capnograph that monitors carbon dioxide levels in exhaled air, a simple questionnaire (Nijmegen Questionnaire) is internationally accepted as being over 90% accurate in suggesting that hyperventilation exists as a contributory feature of person's symptom picture. This non-invasive test is a simple and accurate indicator of acute and chronic hyperventilation.12, 13
What Patient Signs MightAlert You to BPD?
Possible Treatment Sequence for HVS/BPD
Note: The sequence outlined below is one I have evolved for my own practice and is not a recommendation for others. It does however contain the elements I feel are necessary for a successful restoration of breathing. Treatment and retraining commonly involves eight to 12 weekly sessions, followed by treatment every two to three weeks, for approximately six months. An educational component should be included at each session.
First Two Treatments: (Not less than weekly): release and/or stretch of upper fixators of the shoulders/accessory breathing muscle (upper traps, levator, scalenes/SCS, pecs, lats) as well as attention to trigger points in these; soft tissue (NMT, MET, PRT, etc) attention to the diaphragm area (anterior intercostals, sternum, abdominal attachments costal margin, quadratus lumborum/psoas), as well as attention to trigger points in these. Retraining: pursed lip breathing, as well as guidance as to restricting shoulder rise during inhalation. Give an introduction of the capnograph biofeedback method.
Sessions (Weeks) Three and Four: As above, plus mobilization of thoracic spine and ribs (as well as lymphatic pump/drainage methods), plus address fascial and osseous links (cranial, pelvic, limbs). Retraining: anti-arousal breathing, plus specific relaxation methods, stress management, autogenic training, visualisation, meditation, counselling. Sessions of capnograph biofeedback training as required.
Sessions (Weeks) Five to Twelve: As above, plus focus on other body influences (ergonomics, posture). Retraining: additional exercises as appropriate.
Sessions (Weeks) 13 to 26: Review and treat residual dysfunctional patterns/tissues. Throughout: as indicated nutrition, psychotherapy and adjunctive methods, such as hydrotherapy, tai chi, yoga, Pilates, massage, acupuncture, etc.
Successful breathing retraining
There have been many reports and studies showing the value of breathing rehabilitation.14 Lum 15 reported on a study in which more than 1000 anxious and phobic patients were treated using breathing retraining, physical therapy and relaxation. Symptoms were usually abolished in one to six months with some younger patients requiring only a few weeks. At 12 months, 75% were free of all symptoms and 20% had only mild symptoms however, about one patient in twenty had "intractable symptoms."
Instructions for Anti-Arousal/Pursed Lip Breathing 16 17 18 19
Place yourself in a comfortable (seated-or reclining) position, and exhaleslowly and fully through pursed lips (as though you are blowing through a drinking straw), with your lips just barely separated. Imagine that a candle flame is about 10 inches from your mouth and exhale (blowing a thin stream of air) in such a way as to not blow this out, but to just make it flicker. When you have exhaled fully, without strain, close your lips and pause for a count of one and then inhale through your nose. The complete exhalation will have created a "coiled spring" so you do not have to try to control how you inhale. Then, without pausing to hold the breath, exhale fully and slowly through pursed lips once again, blowing the air in a thin stream until you feel the need to inhale. Close your lips, pause for a count of one, and then inhale freely through the nose again. Repeat the inhalation and the exhalation for not less than 30 cycles of in and out. Practice this exercise morning and evening. You might feel light headed after the 30 cycles, so rest for a few minutes before resuming normal activities.
Methods need to be taught to encourage the restraining of shoulder movement (accessory muscle activation) during breathing using one of a variety of methods. For example: The patient is seated at the edge of a chair with arms hanging down, palms facing forward. On inhalation, the patient gently turns the arms so the thumbs point slightly backwards, and on exhalation this is released and relaxed. The rhythmic breathing pattern, along with this gentle restraint of accessory breathing muscles, starts the process of separating the act of inhalation from their over-activity.
The information in this short article has focused on the background, appearance, assessment and rehabilitation of breathing pattern disorders these are not pathologies any more than poor posture is a pathology but they can profoundly influence emotions, chemistry and structure. I sincerely hope you can use the essential features of this message to benefit your clients and perhaps yourself.
Click here for more information about Leon Chaitow, ND, DO.
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