By Lizz Pugh, LMT –
There are few experiences scarier than that of not being able to breathe. For patients who suffer from conditions such as asthma or anxiety that feeling is a familiar companion. Studies have proven that treating the muscular component of these problems can be helpful.
Breathing is the process of bringing air into the lungs and then expelling it. This brings in oxygen to our bodies and gets rid of waste products like carbon dioxide. The exchange is essential to life. We can live without food for a long time, water for a few days, but air only for a few minutes.
Most of us learned about the diaphragm, but very few have heard of other breathing muscles, such as the intercostals, scalenes, pec minor, and sternoclaidomastoid (SCM). If the muscles that help expand the rib cage are not functioning properly it becomes difficult to breathe.
When muscles contract they make space inside our chest. This reduces the intrapulmonary pressure, the lungs expand, and air is drawn inside.
The applications of bodywork to release and normalize these tissues can be helpful to many populations. Athletes are able to breath more effortlessly, thus increasing stamina and performance. Average patients who struggle with their posture (leading to neck and back pain) find that as they improve there is more energy and clarity during the day.
Patients who have anxiety issues have experienced some of the greatest benefits. Often a symptom is the feeling that they cannot breathe. And after analyzing posture and movement of the rib cage, it’s no wonder… they can’t!
The position of the rib cage, the postural dysfunctions, and other stresses have tightened up the breathing muscles so that the movement is limited and they struggle to take a full breath. After a first session one patient said, “I feel like a 40-lb. weight was taken off my chest!”
When there is a dysfunction inside of the lungs, such as cystic fibrosis, COPD, or asthma, musculo-skeletal therapy can assist. Mechanical impairment of the chest wall is often a contributing factor.
A study done at The Alfred Hospital in Australia found that one session of bodywork was enough to improve ease of breathing and reduce pain in adults with cystic fibrosis. Not only does reducing the impairment improve the prognosis for several lung diseases, it also increases exercise tolerance. In COPD, exercise tolerance is a strong predictor of quality of life and survival.
Patients who would like to breathe more effortlessly and improve their posture can come to Lakewood Ranch Medical Massage, located on State Road 70 just West of Lakewood Ranch Blvd. for a special 5-step session which takes approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours. Appointments can be made by calling 941-321-5311.
For those who want to help a spouse or loved one, studies have shown that generalized massage (even that of a hand massage before surgery) drastically reduces anxiety levels. A recent study in Egypt which studied a 20-minute nightly massage by parents showed that “massage improved the key pulmonary functions of children with asthma.” I have regular classes on how to help your loved ones at home. Call 941-321-5311 to discuss your personalized class.