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5 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Respiratory System

1. INHALE THROUGH YOUR NOSE

Allows for appropriate immune response to filter allergens, viruses and bacteria as well as humidifies air prior to reaching lungs for better oxygen exchange. There are also direct connections in the nose to parasympathetic branch (calming system) of autonomic nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that regulates stress, HR, and BP to avoid chronic “flight or fight” state.


2. MAINTAIN MOBILITY OF YOUR RIBCAGE

We have joints where our ribs attach into our sternum (breastbone) and thoracic spine (upper back) for a reason! This is evidence that our ribcages need to expand for appropriate breathing mechanics. The diaphragm, our primary muscle of inhalation, only can contract when the ribcage can expand. If a ribcage stiffens over time, particularly with prolonged sitting and standing positions, shallow breathing can occur. Shallow breathing can affect all aspects of health.


3. AVOID PULLING AIR IN WITH NECK MUSCLES

If the diaphragm is in a suboptimal position your body is going to do whatever it can to get air in! People commonly compensate by over using their neck muscles (scalenes, upper trap, sternocleidomastoid) to pull air into their lungs. To see if this is happening to you, place your hand over your chest and look in the mirror. If you take a breath in and see your neck muscles popping out and limited expansion of chest wall into your hand, you likely have impaired breathing mechanics.


4. BIAS YOUR LEFT ABDOMINALS

Our anatomy is asymmetrical as seen by our internal organs on different sides of the body. Also, our diaphragm attaches further down on the right side of the spine than the left. For appropriate breathing mechanics, our abdominals need to contract during exhalation while the diaphragm recoils into a dome position. In low back pain, scoliosis and other orthopedic issues there tends to be limited abdominal control during exhalation. Because the asymmetrical attachment of the diaphragm, it is important for the left abdominals to counteract this torque.


5. TAKE DEEP BREATHS THROUGHOUT THE DAY

Taking deep breaths throughout the day will help restore mobility and pumping action of our respiratory system. It will also help provide airflow through all parts of our lungs for good O2 and CO2 exchange. Focusing particularly on a prolonged exhalation, will also help your diaphragm fully relax as well as stimulate your parasympathetic (calming) system.


If you are struggling with any of the above tips or feel that you may have compromised respiratory function, reach out to me for help!


Greer Mackie, PT, DPT, OCS

physioDENinfo@gmail.com

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