Bye-Bye Back Pain By Practicing this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise

by | Apr 27, 2017 | Back Pain, Breathing | 0 comments

Reducing Back Pain with Breathing Are You Ready to Take Action and Do Something About Your Back Pain?

Back pain can be anywhere along the spine from the tip of your tailbone, all the way up to the base of your skull.  Regardless of where it hurts, or what you’ve done to aggravate it – the truth is, that all anybody ever really wants is a quick fix to make the pain go away.

I know personally how life-altering it is to live with chronic back pain.  I was born with defects at L5-S1 and that instability has made maintaining my core strength a necessity to keep me healthy.  And if you’re low back is out of alignment, nothing stacked on top of that is quite right either so back pain can result anywhere from the bottom to the top.

If it’s not your low back that’s bothering you, it might be your mid-back, or upper back / neck and shoulders.  It’s nice if a chiropractic adjustment can get you back in alignment, but then the question remains – how long will your adjustment hold before it hurts again?  Pills and shots tend to mask the pain so you feel amazing while you’re medicated, and worse off when it wears off!

There are 2 critical things to pay attention to that can quickly begin alleviating your back pain problems. 

  1. Better Posture
  2. Breathing

Ideally our spine is designed to move freely in all directions.  When the bones are “out of balance” it restricts movement.   Muscles get into tight over-holding patterns, and the daily activities we do over and over sometimes only make it worse.  Muscles move bones, so getting the right muscle balance to maintain healthy body alignment for better posture really does matter if you’re serious about fixing your back pain problems.  We need stability AND mobility.

It’s nice to think, “ If I could just “relax” my back would feel better.”  But the truth is, it’s a combination of both work and release that will make the biggest difference to improve your health.  Right now that work/release balance for good posture is out of whack, and the only way your body can tell you there’s a problem is with a pain signal.

Improving posture is going to be a long-term project…  There is lots to become aware of, bad habits to replace with better habits, and never-ending opportunities to incorporate posture-improving exercises into your weekly workout program. If you’re interested in getting started paying attention to your current posture habits click here to take this Posture Quiz.

Now let’s talk about breathing: Keep reading and take in a few deep breaths.  Notice where the air is going inside your body.

  • Does your low belly stick out when you inhale?
  • Does most of your air rise up into the front of your chest? 

(Both of these not-so-hot breathing habits are contributing factors to low back pain.)

  • Are you able to take a full, deep breath, or are you a shallow breather?

If your back really hurts you might be compensating by not breathing deeply enough to avoid more pain (when in fact this choice is only making the lock down effect worse, and creating more tension.) 

  • Do you breathe evenly into BOTH lungs?  Or tend to fill one side more than the other? 

(Not breathing evenly, back muscles are not working/stretching evenly.)

  • When you inhale do you lift your shoulders up around your ears, or is the ribcage lifting and the shoulders are just riding along on the lift of the cage?

(If you’re actively hiking your shoulders up, you’re jamming your head/neck into your body compressing the cervical spine.)

Since so many people these days have forward head posture your poor neck and shoulder muscles are already on over-drive to keep your head from falling off your body, which is a part of why your shoulders want to hike up to begin with and why you may be dealing with neck pain, mid-back pain or both.

Poor neck! Poor shoulders! Poor back!  Have I gotten your attention yet?

Yes, it’s true you don’t have to think about breathing to stay alive.  But, how you are breathing matters if you want to help eliminate back pain.  If your back hurts, it’s your body’s way of saying, “HEY, Pay Attention!  Make a Change.  PLEASE Make the Pain Go AWAY!”

Improving your posture and breathing habits are the two fastest pro-active things you can do to help your body feel better.  You don’t need fancy equipment, you just need to be aware of what you’ve been doing that’s creating the pain and stop doing it. Then start reinforcing new and better posture and breathing habits.  This might require some additional exercise and lifestyle habits eventually…but you can get started with better BREATHING!

Better breathing habits help with decompression and healthy compression of the spine.  Got a bulging disk or a pinched nerve?  It might be because there isn’t enough space between each of your back bones.  Learning how to breath up the back of the ribcage can help create the space you need to (a improve posture, and b) give each segment of your spine the space it needs so that your discs can rest where they belong and move safely as the spine moves. With more space between the bones, the discs are able to rest where they belong which gives your nerves the space they need to avoid pinching.  Then it getting the right muscles firing patterns re-trained to move safely without back pain.

I’m continually amazed at the clients I work with who walk in the door with back pain, and leave pain free because they’ve harnessed the “secret” power of posture and breathing.  Yes, I’ve got lots of exercises and cues to help facilitate improvements, and everybody’s got their own unique holding patterns to re-organize. But the body wants to feel better. Patience and practice will help take you from having to pay close attention to how you are breathing, standing, sitting, and moving, to being confident that you can do whatever you want safely without pain.  And that is a beautiful thing!

Centerworks® Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise

You can practice this simple back-opening breathing exercise anywhere.  Standing, seated, kneeling, lying down on your back, side lying, laying on your belly.  Start with the body still and just focus on the breathing exercise.  Done well you should immediately begin to feel the difference in the length of your spine, the support of your low abdominal muscles, and the release of neck and shoulder tension.  Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can incorporate this breathing technique in with your other Pilates, Yoga, and fitness exercises.

There are 4 Parts to this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise

  1. INHALE downward to send a little breath/air towards your tailbone.
  2. Continue the INHALE UP the back of the ribcage to lift the ribs off the hips.
  3. EXHALE and zip up the lower abs (flatten the low belly by pulling 2-3” below the navel up, in, and back towards the bottom back ribs. Creating a “sandwich of support thru the pelvis & low back.)
  4. Continue the EXHALE and allow the shoulder blades to drop down (which lengthens the upper back and “floats” neck and head up.)

Simple Breathing Exercise to Help Eliminate Back Pain

Inhale down to the tail and up the back of the ribcage.
Exhale low abs lift up, shoulders drop down.

Inhale down to the tail and up the back of the ribcage.
Exhale low abs lift up, shoulders drop down.

Inhale down to the tail and up the back of the ribcage.
Exhale low abs lift up, shoulders drop down.

Inhale down to the tail and up the back of the ribcage.
Exhale low abs lift up, shoulders drop down.

Inhale down to the tail and up the back of the ribcage.
Exhale low abs lift up, shoulders drop down.

That’s it!  Simple yes, but maybe not easy…  How many times throughout the day can you pause, and practice this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise?  Use it to help create space and elongate the spine from your tailbone to the top of your head.  Develop better “low center” support with the zip up of the abs. Reduce neck and shoulder tension with the drop of the shoulders.  The combination of work and release that you are practicing with this breathing exercise is a great start to improving your posture and can help to reduce or eliminate back pain.

Can you feel the difference this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise makes? Even with only a couple of intentional breaths.  Practice this breathing exercise periodically throughout the day to help your back feel better.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


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