Breathing may seem like a natural function, but did you know you can use it to optimize your physical health? Your breathing mechanics can play a significant role in the way your body handles viruses and other ailments; more specifically how better breathing can help you prevent COVID-19.
How We’re Supposed to Breathe
While it may seem like breathing is as simple as a breath in and out, the physiology is much more complex. Proper breathing mechanics include inhalation through the nose and diaphragmatic breathing.
The diaphragm is the main muscle involved with inhalation. For optimal function, it requires both appropriate ribcage position and mobility. When you use your diaphragm to breathe correctly, you can improve airflow and reduce stagnant air in the lungs.
The nose also humidifies the air that enters it. This allows for an easier oxygen exchange inside your lungs. Your nasal passage’s connection to the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our bodily functions when we’re at rest, also helps in calming your body and mind.
As this study shows, nasal breathing has other health benefits. The most significant of these is the nasal passage’s ability to filter out bacteria, viruses, and allergens, thus protecting your body from sickness. This is incredibly important in the age of Covid-19. The mucus in your nose collects the particles, allowing you to expel them when you blow your nose.
Improper Breathing Techniques
Breathing through your mouth limits airflow through your nose, which reduces the ability to filter out bacteria and viruses. It also prevents the nasal passage from humidifying air, making the air in your lungs colder. This can leave you at risk for upper respiratory infections.
Your body compensates for mouth breathing by shifting to a forward head posture. This position leads to a series of health issues, including neck pain, early arthritis, compressed spinal discs, and tension headaches. It also causes neck muscles to tense up, which then further restricts breathing by closing down the airway.
Am I a Mouth Breather?
There are some ways to identify whether you habitually breathe through your nose or your mouth. Ask yourself:
- Do I wake up with a dry mouth?
- Do I have a history of chronic nasal infections?
- When I take a deep breath in front of a mirror, do I see my neck muscles compensating?
If you notice these issues in your day-to-day life, you likely unconsciously breathe through your mouth. Dr. Greer Mackie at Heather Lane PT is available to assist in retraining these compensations.
Practicing Proper Breathing
There are simple things you can do to help your nasal and diaphragmatic breathing:
- One of the easiest exercises is merely placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This forces nasal breathing and helps you work on your diaphragmatic breathing as well.
- When you’re practicing your nasal breathing, look in the mirror. Make sure your shoulders aren’t hunching or rising towards your ears.
- Place your hands on your chest and lower rib cage while you breathe. You should be able to feel your body expand outward as you inhale through your nose.
With practice, you can use breathing to improve your overall health, and prevent future sickness. If you want individualized help to improve your breathing mechanics, contact Heather Lane Physical Therapy at 720-507-3962 today to schedule your appointment!