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Breathing Patterns and Functional Movement

I was recently reading the article titled “Breathing pattern disorders and functional movement” that was authored by Helen Bradley and Joseph Esformes and published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy in February 2014 and thought I would highlight some of the key messages that I took from the article.

As health professionals (osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors, exercise physiologists, myotherapists and personal trainers) we are constantly working with clients that are either injured, aiming to improve their overall health and wellbeing (of which mobility, stability and control are part of) or are working towards achieving a specific physical goal that could be activity or sports related.  Most of the time we are very good at dealing with the musculoskeletal issues that the client or we identify and hopefully in many of these cases also be looking to assess through observation ones breathing patterns i.e. are they a diaphragmatic breather or do they have dysfunctional breathing i.e. upper rib breathing patterns etc.

The authors of this article went one step further and researched whether there was a link between breathing pattern disorders and functional movement through the use of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS).  Key messages from the article included the following:

  • Breathing pattern disorders can be defined as “inappropriate breathing that is persistent enough to cause symptoms with no apparent organic cause, are present in a variety of individuals with musculoskeletal dysfunction”.
  • People with “poor posture, scapular dyskinesis, low back pain, neck pain and temporomandibular joint pain exhibit signs of fault breathing mechanics”.
  • The biomechanical diagnosis of breathing pattern disorders is “usually made by clinical observations by comparing patients breathing pattern with normal respiratory mechanics.  The Hi Lo breathing assessment, involving observation of the chest and abdomen at rest, in a seated position, is reasonably accurate for determining different types of simulated breathing patterns”.
  • Other breathing assessments included in the study included capnography, Nijmegen questionnaire and breath-holding ability.   This study used a range of these clinical measures as part of their study due to the lack of consensus around what is the gold standard for assessing for a breathing pattern disorder.
  • This study hypothesized that individuals with abnormal results in any of the breathing assessments would score poorly on the FMS (a score less than 14).
  • The results of the study show that a relationship exists between elements of breathing pattern disorders and functional movement.   Both biomechanical and biochemical measures of breathing pattern disorders had a significant association with FMS scores.
  • The study showed that those individuals who were assessed as diaphragmatic breathers scored significantly higher than those who were assessed as being thoracic breathers.
  • Individuals who exhibited signs of breathing pattern disorders were likely to demonstrate greater movement dysfunction as represented by lower scores on the FMS.
  • The Hi Lo assessment and capnogoraphy measurements correlated highly and may be useful for identifying breathing pattern disorders in healthy people.

For those of you who would like to read the full article, please click here.

What Can We Take Away From This?

This study suggests that as health professionals we should be taking much more of an interest in assessing and looking at how our clients breathe and looking to address this as part of our treatment and management plan for overall health and wellbeing.  Much more research still needs to be done in this area, however it is great to see that we are starting to now look at how people function as a whole rather than in isolation of systems within the body.

This blog post was written by Osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.

Principle Four Osteopathy

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD leading Osteopathy clinics. At the clinic we treat a wide range of clients, ranging from the office worker, exercise enthusiast to athlete. We have 3 experienced osteopaths working across both of the clinics.

The Melbourne City CBD clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place (basement), close to the corner of Elizabeth St and Little Bourke in the Melbourne City CBD. Our premises adjoin the Jon Weller Personal Training Studio, a fully-equipped training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

The Docklands clinic is located at 717 Bourke St (Ground Floor), beneath the Channel 9 building near the walkway from Southern Cross Train Station to Etihad Stadium. Our premises adjoin Pilates on Bourke, a fully-equipped pilates and yoga training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials, pilates or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

To speak to an Osteopath or book an appointment at Principle Four Osteopathy, please book online or call 03 9670 9290.