Many breathing problems, such as exercise-induced asthma, sleep apnea, and wheezing, are characterized by decreased airflow to the lungs. While there are a variety of causes for these types of lung issues, can spinal misalignment cause shortness of breath? The answer to this question may be surprising, as chiropractic treatment is likely not the first healthcare option you think of when you’re having breathing difficulties. However, chiropractic treatment can be used as a natural way to reduce and relieve symptoms of certain respiratory conditions.
Below, we detail how a misaligned spine can cause breathing problems and how receiving chiropractic care can help resolve them.
How Can Spinal Misalignment Cause Shortness of Breath?
Even a slight problem in the spine can result in a domino effect of other symptoms and conditions, including breathing problems. Several muscles support our breathing system, including those in the rib cage, back, neck, and chest. Misaligned spinal vertebrae can result in restricted movement and can affect the muscular function of breathing, chest expansion, and lung capacity, making it harder to take in the air you need to breathe deeply and freely. Spinal misalignment can cause shortness of breath due to several different reasons, including:
- Forward head posture: The neck is responsible for the position and movement of the upper ribs, which lift when you breathe in. It also contains the nerves that control the diaphragm. When there is forward head posture or loss of cervical curve, this can reduce vital lung capacity by 20-30%.
- Straight spine syndrome: This is a thoracic mid-back deformity that is defined by the loss of normal curvature. With straight spine syndrome, there is less space for the lungs to expand, and it may be perceived as shortness of breath.
- Hunched posture: A great example of how having a hunched posture can affect breathing is to try the following exercise: Bend over and try to take a deep breath. Once you’ve done this, then sit or stand up tall, and again, try to take a deep breath. Do you feel the difference?
- Tightness and spasms of the intercostal muscles: These muscles are also responsible for expanding and contracting the rib cage. These muscles become tight or begin spasming with spinal misalignments and postural distortions, and they can limit the expansion and contraction of the rib cage. This also limits lung volume capacity and reduces the amount of air you’re able to breathe in.
- Nerve dysfunction: If the sensory and motor nerves controlling the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, or any other breathing mechanisms are not working properly, then the normal function of the lungs will be diminished. These nerves are also responsible for the unconscious breathing mechanism while you sleep, and alterations to this system can result in what is called central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain isn’t sending the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing, causing your breathing to stop and start.
Do I Have Misalignment Contributing to Shortness of Breath?
Below, we detail a few ways to determine if your spinal misalignments are contributing to issues with shortness of breath:
- Visualize your posture: Changes to the mid-back curvature are easy to detect. If you have a mid-back that is very straight or flat, or if both of your shoulder blades seem to stick out, you may have a reduced kyphosis, which puts a squeezing-like pressure on your lungs. Although this may appear to be “good” posture, being overly erect can be a problem as well. Conversely, if you see a hunch in your mid-back, this is a hyperkyphosis, or an increased curve, which puts compression forces on your lungs. These compression forces are also seen with forward head posture.
- Symptoms you can feel: Tight or spasmed intercostal muscles are symptoms you will feel, as a spasm will feel like a sharp, stabbing pain. Pain in between the shoulder blades signals problems with the ribs and the muscles in between them, while a tight upper back means your upper ribs may not be functioning correctly, which could also impact your lower lung function. You may also feel pain or tightness in your chest.
- Symptoms you can’t feel: Nerve dysfunction is not a symptom you will be able to feel; however, forward head posture or the postures noted above may also imply that nerve dysfunction.
While there are a variety of treatment options for breathing problems, such as medication, chiropractic treatment is a holistic treatment that can reduce and possibly eliminate symptoms associated with breathing problems by improving posture and misalignments.
Treating Breathing Problems With Chiropractic Care
A chiropractor can help with breathing problems by addressing the cause of the issues rather than just the symptoms. Chiropractic care focuses on correcting any possible spinal misalignments causing breathing issues and restoring the spine to its proper alignment.
Identifying these misalignments is the first step in figuring out why you might be having trouble filling your lungs. Correcting these misalignments can lead to improved lung volume capacity and increased chest expansion and flexibility, all of which allow the lungs to take in more air. Depending on the type of chiropractic care, you may also strengthen signals from the brain to the lungs. Because of this, chiropractic care is a natural, non-invasive way to help alleviate breathing problems. It eliminates many of the risks associated with taking over-the-counter and prescription medications and can provide a long-term solution. Some of the effects of chiropractic treatment are as follows:
- Chiropractic adjustments: Reduces muscle spasms, increases range of motion, and can break up adhesions limiting full inspiration and expiration.
- Postural adjustments: Creates new muscle memory to a good posture and reduces forward head posture and hunching to restore function to the ribcage and increase lung capacity by 20-30%.
- Spinal traction: Remodels the shape of the spinal curve to reduce abnormal lung pressure on the lungs and nervous system. Improvements from this modality are long-term and stable.
- Breathing exercises: Strengthens the musculature that supports healthy lung function.
Breathe Better with PostureWorks
There can be many different causes of respiratory problems, many of which are often rooted in the health and shape of the spine. Instead of simply coping with your breathing difficulties or accepting them as normal, visiting a chiropractor is a better option. That’s why PostureWorks uses the scientifically-validated Chiropractic BioPhysics® (CBP) system to determine the spinal misalignments that are causing shortness of breath and the best treatment plan to fix the problem. By rehabilitating your spine using postural exercises, neuro-muscular reeducation, and spinal alignment traction, your nerves and ribcage will be able to resume their normal breathing functions.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function while eliminating the source of pain and circulatory and nervous dysfunction. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or to learn about how spinal misalignment can cause shortness of breath.