Breathing therapy concentrates on breath and life, which are obviously intertwined, as are breath and thought. It is by means of the breath that we remain physically alive. As babies we are born with the inherent knowledge to breathe correctly through our diaphragm, but as we grow into toddlers, children and onto adulthood our life experiences and emotions influence and change our unique pattern of breathing.
Gerry Gajadharsingh estimates that 70% of patients that consult him do NOT breathe properly.
How is a Breathing Pattern Disorder (BPD) diagnosed?
Apart from the history and habits described above, the right clinical examination can be very revealing.
- The Breath Pause – Patients with a breath pause of less than 30 seconds may be suggestive of BPD
- Observation – Upper ribcage breathing and poor diaphragmatic use may be suggestive of BPD
- Breathing Rate – Optimum breathing is about 6 cycles per minute, an average patient breathes about 12 cycles per minute. A BR of more than 15 per minute may be suggestive of BPD
- Nijmegen Questionnaire – This validated questionnaire can be suggestive of BPD if the patient scores highly
- Capnography – This specialised piece of equipment measures CO2 levels and breathing rate and is the most scientific method of diagnosing BPD
Once diagnosed BPD can be subdivided into two categories:
- Intermittent Over-breathing (mostly situational)
- Chronic Over-breathing
Treatment for Intermittent Over-Breathing
The following treatments may be used in conjunction with each other, or in isolation, depending on the complexity of the problem:
- Osteopathic hands on work – to improve neck function (nerve supple to diaphragm), direct work to the thoracic spine, rib cage and associated soft tissues, muscle and fascia to improve local mechanics and decrease sympathetic arousal.
- Cranio-sacral and functional osteopathic techniques to stimulate parasympathetic response and reduce sympathetic arousal.
- Techniques to improve thoraco/lumbar function to help adrenal support and release tension in the Iliopsoas muscles (directly connected to the diaphragm)
- Breathing re-education
- Nutritional support to the adrenals, including dietary change, nutritional supplements and stress adaptogens
- Supportive exercise to improve ribcage mechanics, posture, core stability and muscle/fascial flexibility
- Hypnotherapy/psychotherapy to look at sub-conscious patterns and situational emotional triggers
Treatment for Chronic Over-Breathing
Chronic Over-breathing is treated with some, or all, of the treatments offered for Intermittent Over-breathing. Additionally Capnotraining may be used.
Capnotraining involves a minimum of four weekly, one to one, 45 minute sessions, which include use of the CapnoTrainer and hands on osteopathic work. This ideally needs to be complemented with personal capnotraining work. For this we recommend purchasing a CapnoTrainer.