Breathing well is the foundation to being well.
It is a movement pattern that most of us take for granted (we do it around 20,000 times per day!), but it lays the foundation for all other physiological processes.
Yet 1 in 10 people experience a breathing pattern disorder or chronic over breathing at some point in their life and unfortunately, when the breath becomes compensated, we often don’t recognise the signs until it disturbs our daily activities or even frightens us, and leads us into a vicious cycle of continual over-breathing.
The first step for control and restoration of healthy physiology is breathing retaining. Physiotherapists primarily assess and treat breathing as a movement pattern disorder:
Helping you learn what normal efficient adult breathing actually is, and then how to return your breathing to a baseline level of relaxation, will begin the process of returning to a calm and balanced state.
WHAT IS DISORDERED BREATHING?
Disordered breathing occurs when upper chest breathing at a faster rate, and often through the mouth, becomes the dominant pattern of breathing. It can even occur at rest and is an inefficient way to breathe, at times anxiety-producing.
Many different symptoms can occur from disordered breathing, some of which have become the norm in our fast-paced 21st century world that we don’t often attribute to our breath:
feeling anxious and uptight or wound up
fatigue and weakness
poor memory recall and difficulty concentrating
abdominal bloating and discomfort
decreased resilience and pain tolerance
muscle spasms/cramps and joint pain
sore neck, shoulders, back
frequent sighing and yawning
feeling of ‘air hunger’ at rest or during movement / sport
pins and needles
irritability or hypervigilance
* Check with your doctor if you are experiencing this symptoms to rule out certain medical conditions.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I SUFFER FROM A DISORDERED BREATHING PATTERN?
Have you ever been accused of taking big sighs or yawning often? How about regularly holding your breath for no good reason? Feelings of breathlessness or an inability to take a satisfying breath in or out are other tip-offs that you may not have an efficient breathing pattern.
Though all of the above can be at times a normal response to life, when these symptoms are experienced repeatedly and at inappropriate times, they can lead to more troubling sensations such as anxiety, dizziness, blurred vision, pins and needles, panic attacks, and general dis-ease in body, feeling easily overwhelmed and constantly “on edge.”
Remember, it’s not up to you to diagnose yourself, but if this page rings a bell, call us today – your physiotherapist will assess your breathing and use well-researched physiotherapy-based treatment options to treat your concerns, favouring skills and not pills.
WHAT CAUSES DISORDERED BREATHING?
Many things can affect our breathing. Stress. Depression. Illness. Injury. Posture. Stimulants such as caffeine. Grief. Sinus issues….the list goes on and on. Screen apnoea is real. Our breath is affected by all aspects of life, and our breath affects all aspects of our being.
The good news is that, because breath is a movement pattern just like any movement pattern (dribbling a basketball, perfecting your front crawl stroke), it can change and improve with understanding, attention, and concerted effort and practice. Remember, whatever you repeat you get good at…so repeating efficient movement patterns will lead to positive change.
WHAT IS THE BRADCLIFF BREATHING METHOD?
Two physiotherapists in New Zealand, Dinah Bradley and Tania Clifton-Smith, came together in 1999 and the BradCliff Method ® evolved from their combined experience, vision and clinical skills. This method is now recognised internationally as a highly successful drug-free treatment technique, and the BradCliff Method remains at the forefront in breathing rehabilitation around the world.
BradCliff = The Science of Breathing Well. The unique combination of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy AND Respiratory Physiotherapy makes a BradCliff practitioner an expert in all things breathing related.
The first ingredient is commitment and a professional assessment. Regular practice is essential, even as you start to feel better. It takes from six to eight weeks with guidance to change from faulty to normal breathing patterns, providing practice is consistently regular.
ISN’T THIS ALL RATHER PERTINENT IN THESE DAYS OF COVID-19?
Absolutely. Breath and breathing is at the top of our collective mind these days.
Any hospitalization, or a stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), has always been known to take its toll on the body even after only a few days of bed rest. Simple activities such as showering or walking up and down stairs can leave you feeling breathless and weak. Post-hospital physiotherapy care can be helpful in recovery.
Additionally, even “mild” cases of COVID-19 are showing long standing effects such as shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, joint pain, and “brain fog”, let alone the psychological trauma of “air-hunger” those hospitalised with COVID-19 have come to know. It is becoming clear as we move further into this pandemic, that people who have been affected by COVID-19 may be struggling to return to baseline calm with their breathing for many weeks and even months post-infection.
Anxiety, frustration and depression can develop when we are unable to return to work or participate in our usual activities. This “new normal” can certainly be anxiety-producing on its own and fear and worry around COVID-19 sets up a vicious cycle that can lead to further disorders. Awareness is the first step in breaking the cycle to positively affect how you feel.
Physiotherapy, though seemingly an adjunctive treatment option to the necessary medical, pharmacological, and public heath interventions that we are all so grateful for today, is an important player in the emerging field of Breathing Health. A collaborative multidisciplinary treatment model for breathing therapy is critical in managing our present reality of the coronavirus pandemic and in the days to follow.
WHO IS THE BRADCLIFF METHOD APPROPRIATE FOR?
Anyone who desires drug-free options to help live well in today’s stress laden fast paced society. This includes people who have co-existing health problems such as asthma, IPF and COPD, anxiety and depression, pain and dizziness, or have recently recovered from COVID-19.
Athletes and musicians/singers are well positioned to gain a lot from learning how to breathe well. The diaphragm is a muscle that needs to be trained for those expecting more from themselves.
Women‘s hormonal and pelvic floor health can benefit from the additional understanding of breathing retraining, positively affecting stress and urge incontinence, pelvic pain, and hormonal changes occurring in pregnancy, menstruation, and during peri-menopause and menopause.
Children are not exempt from disordered breathing, and are an absolute pleasure to work with! Changes occur quickly and are usually maintained. A child’s breathing pattern provides much information about their health and general well being. Asthma management, play/sport, mouth breathers, sleep disorders, focus/attention at school are all areas that we can address with the BradCliff Method.
I thought my doctor was nuts, suggesting I had breathing lessons. Hello – I’ve been breathing all my life haven’t I? What else is there to know? I grudgingly agreed and I must say, I learned a lot. It was harder than I thought but the pay-off has been great. My breathlessness has gone and relief puffer use has gone way down.” – Peter 27 (asthma)
“I can’t describe the feeling, when I actually felt my stomach wall relax and I breathed low in my chest. It felt so foreign, but at the same time familiar! And the feeling of letting go … relaxing … was utterly wonderful.” – Susan 61 (stress and anxiety)
“It feels so good to stretch my chest, neck and shoulder muscles. After doing the BradCliff exercise routine I feel a weight literally lift off my chest, my neck pain and shoulder discomfort dissipates. I can breathe easy. I do have to keep the exercises up, though. I have a very busy job and at the end of a busy week I’m a little tense my muscles are tense and I notice my breathing is faster with less pause phase. After the breathing exercises I feel much better.” – Tony, 42 (neck and shoulder pain)
*The information contained on the website/blog is not intended to be medical advice nor replace the care given by your health care provider.
Always consult your own health care provider if you are seeking medical advice.