Get A Weight Off Your Chest

With the recent fire disasters in Australia, the Bellarine region has been hit with poorer air quality which can lead to issues with breathing especially in those more susceptible.
Learn here a bit about asthma and how osteopathy may help with improving breathing.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common long-term condition of the lungs that causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow resulting in breathing difficulty. Asthma is most common in children, however is often carried into adult life.
It is estimated that 1 in 9 Australians experience Asthma – that’s approximately 3 children in an average Australian classroom or 2 players per footy team.

A range of things including poor air quality or airborne substances such as pollens and dust, respiratory infections, cold air or physical activity can induce Asthma. Symptoms often present as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

Those who have been diagnosed as asthmatic often have and Asthma Action Plan and can manage or reduce symptoms with medications however today we will briefly delve into how osteopathic treatment may assist in managing some symptoms associated with asthma!

Anatomy and Asthma

The lungs are the major respiratory organ of the body that essentially allow us to breath. The lungs are protected by the rib cage and expand as we breath in and deflate as we breath out. The rib cage is made up of 12 ribs that have attachments to the 12 thoracic vertebrae at the back and to the sternum (chest bone) at the front either directly or indirectly through cartilage (It is important to note that ribs 11 and 12 do not attach to the front and are considered ‘floating ribs’). In between each rib is a small band of muscle fibre known as the intercostal muscles. These muscles work in with our Diaphragm – a large muscle that sits across the bottom of our rib cage and attaches to the ribs and lower vertebra to allow the ribs to raise and chest to expand as we breath.

As asthma can cause shortness of breath and breathing difficulty it is common for these muscles to become tired, fatigued or strained resulting in sub-optimal chest expansion, chest tightness and in some cases pain or discomfort. Asthmatics when exposed to triggers will often experience coughing fits, which can cause the joints of rib cage and spine (costovertebral joints) to sprain and become inflamed, irritated and very painful! Pain associated with rib sprains often presents as sharp and grabbing pain in the front or back of the chest that becomes worse when trying to take a deep breath in or rotate through the trunk.

This is where Osteopathy may be able to help you!

Osteopathy and Asthma

Your osteopath may be able to assist with biomechanical chest pain or tightness associated with your asthma. Your oribssteopath can work with you to identify tight muscle and restrictions within your rib cage, thoracic and cervical spine with the aim of improving respiratory motion.

Treatment techniques may include soft tissue massage techniques, muscle and joint stretching and joint manipulation where appropriate to promote mobility and therefore expansion of the chest cavity.

Tips for those with Asthma

The following exercises can be used to help promote mobility of the rib cage and thoracic spine and may be used to reduce chest tightness:
1. Cat/camel – Start on all fours and gently sink back down towards the floor whilst looking up to roof to make your tail bone stick up to the roof and a curve in your spine. Take a deep breath in and as you breath out reverse the movement by tucking your tail-bone in and arching through your back – mimicking the hump of a camel.
Repeat this manoeuvre 8-10 in a row and up to 5 times a day using your breathing to assist with flow.

2. Towel/foam roller stretch – If you have a foam roller this is great for this exercise, however you may use a towel folded in half width wise and rolled length wise to form a tube/cylinder shape. Place the roller/towel on a stable surface such as the ground and lay with the length of your spine along the length of roller/towel. Allow your arms to stretch into a “T” shape and relax off to either side of the roller/towel – this will open up through the front of your chest and promote some mobility through the back! You may like to gently rock side to side for more mobility based work.
Hold for 25-30 seconds, release and repeat up to 5 times in a row 2-5 times a day. This one is AWESOME at the end of a day for desk workers too!

*Depending on the size of your roller or towel you may need to use pillows to support your head to avoid straining the neck*

If you are suffering sudden onset or new occurrence shortness of breath, chest pains or difficulty breathing we recommend consulting your Doctor or emergency services as soon as possible as this may be a sign of more serious conditions.

For further information or to see if Osteopathy may be an option for you please give the clinic a call on 5253 2345 and have a chat to one of our friendly practitioners today!


Gemma Percy

Gemma completed her Bachelor of health sciences/Bachelor of Applied Sciences at RMIT University. Having participated in numerous sports growing up Gemma has a sound understanding and experience with sports-related injuries and management.

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