Guest Blog: Breathing and Neck Pain


Breathing is part of life. That’s an understatement, right? This comes before anything else we need to survive. Without fresh O2, we are doomed to be part of history rather than the present.

So why, if it is so important, do we pay absolutely no attention to it?

Breathing is one of those funny things nobody cares about until it goes wrong. Whether you know it or not, breathing goes wrong a lot. One of the main symptoms? Neck pain.

Neck pain is very often caused by faulty breathing patterns. In today’s modern world we are subject to more stress, more stimuli, and more sitting than we were put together to handle. This causes the body to react – we do this by adopting a protective posture called high threshold posture.

This is designed to help our bodies deal with short term stress. It enables accessory muscles (primarily in the neck) to assist in respiration to get that valuable O2 into our bodies to evade, dodge, duck and weave whatever trouble comes our way. This harkens back to primitive times when we weren’t safe and high on the food chain. Today, however, we don’t have the threat of being eaten, we have the threat of missing a text, being late, getting in a traffic jam. These stressors elicit the same response as the primitive life preserving ones, but with less consequences.

The problem lies in that we can never get away from these stressors. We are bombarded with stimuli, To-Do lists, and never give our body a chance to rest. This causes the high threshold posture to persist and those neck muscle to keep pumping in valuable air.

This constant demand creates tension, torque, and eventually pain. And, because we have to breathe, and because pain is a stressor, we create a vicious cycle of bad breathing causing pain and pain causing bad breathing.

A way out? Dedicated breathing exercises. A physical therapist can help retrain the right process of breathing and give you drills to help reset these natural/normal patterns when things go wonky.

~ Eric Christensen, DPT – Co-Founder, Chandler Physical Therapy

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