You might have heard your practitioner say -just breathe into it- as a hand painfully digs into your pectoralis minor, or a needle is pressed into a particularly tender point. You might believe the patronizing and cruel suggestion to breathe couldn't possibly help. Breathing is an involuntary action, but when we bring awareness and intention to this action we can alter our pain perception, and remind those muscles (that we never told to fire) to let go.
Breath is the foundation of living. Respiration provides energy required for growth, repair and movement. It brings nutrients in and aids in the removal of toxins. Awareness of the breath allows us to activate deeper, diaphragmatic breathing. This is respiration using the diaphragm, the deepest abdominal muscle.
Lately, I have been working on breathing exercises with clients who are experiencing chronic back pain. More often than not, when we think breathe, the lungs and rib cage move, and only in the front-side of your body. Because the diaphragm is such a unique muscle, it attaches to the entire circumference of the inside of your ribs, and to your spine. When properly activated the diaphragm moves all of those structures, on all sides of the body.
Try it! It is easiest laying down on your back, with your knees up, feet flat on the floor. Inhale low into your stomach. Exhale bringing your stomach back in. Use the floor to expand your back into as you inhale. Exhale. Find a slow, rhythmic pattern to your breathing, using a count of 2 or 4 to inhale, then exhale for 2 or 4 counts.