I know what you’re thinking…..”Kelly, there is no way lip filler and breathing are related!”
Well, let’s take a look…..
Every now and then a fad will come along that make those of us who work in the world of breathing dysfunction roll our eyes or cry in the corner.
Because sometimes these seemingly innocent fads can put people at real risk of developing breathing pattern problems!
Let’s look back on some of the classics.
I like to start with the Victorians. These ladies wore corsets. They were also known as being a little bit fragile and sensitive. Highly strung, pale and constantly fainting. The reason? They couldn’t breathe.
Imagine having your abdomen tightly bound in a corset. Your normal breathing mechanisms aren’t going to work. Before you know it, you’ve got a generation of females with breathing dysfunction and the symptoms which go along with it. I wonder how many of those thrown into the mental asylum were victims of corset induced breathing pattern disorder?!
Next. The need to be thin. This happens in every generation. Super low-calorie diets. Yes, that’s right, not eating enough can start you off on a weird breathing pattern. It’s not just the hunger that’s the problem. How many people pull in their tummies to look thinner? People are walking around all day with their stomachs tightly pulled in towards their spine. You’ve basically given yourself a corset made from your abdominals. Cue upper chest breathing and weird breathing patterns.
In the 70’s we had high waisted trousers. In the 90’s we had crop tops and hipster jeans (pulling your tummy in again). The 2010’s brought the skinny jeans. The fashion world is playing havoc with our ability to breathe!
And it’s not just beauty and fashion to blame. There are also far more serious factors at play.
There has been a significant (approx. 30%) rise in anxiety in the UK population since 2008. That is a terrifying statistic. This rise is likely to be multifactorial but financial crashes and an increased use of social media will certainly be in the mix. The pressure to portray the perception of a perfect life has never been so present. I’m glad my teenage years weren’t documented on Instagram!
And now coronavirus – not only are people presenting with breathing pattern issues as a result of a covid-19 infection, but the economic damage caused by this virus will be felt for years to come. As a generation we’ve already experienced a “once in a generation” economic disaster twice!!!
I really think we’re in a sticky era for developing breathing pattern problems. It’s concerning.
Sorry, that’s enough doom and gloom. My aim is to always bring a bit of humour to these blogs.
So let’s get back to lip filler. Not just lip filler, badly done lip filler. You know the ones where people’s lips look like pool inflatables.
Well, what I’ve noticed is that people who have too much filler can’t shut their mouths. If you can’t shut your mouth then you’re probably going to breathe through it. Path of least resistance and all that. Which those of you who read my blog regularly will already know is NOT the right way to breath. Wrong orifice! So, ladies, and gents, please don’t overfill your lips. Firstly, it looks a bit odd and secondly you might be storing up future health issues because of your breathing!
OK, ok, I’m being a bit tongue in cheek with the lip filler, but my point is breathing pattern issues can start because of the most random and seemingly unconnected of things.
And nobody is immune. Not man not woman not child not grandma not couch-potato not professional athlete not stay-at-home-mum not high-flying CEO. Anyone can develop a breathing pattern issue if the circumstances are right (or wrong depending how you look at it).
My hope is that as our awareness around breathing and the importance of breathing pattern increases, the incidence of it happening and the impact it has on people’s lives will reduce. Education is key.
So, what might trigger a breathing pattern disorder? I’ve broken the triggers down into three overarching areas, but, in reality the three areas are very much intertwined. A change in one will affect the others – this is a simplistic view but a useful place to start.
Things which stimulate your sympathetic nervous system.
Anything which stimulates your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), or your ‘fight or flight’ response as it is commonly known, may affect your breathing pattern – particularly if the cause has been going on for a longer period of time.
Your SNS puts you in a state primed for action – increasing your heart rate and breathing rate. It’s a very useful mechanism but it can cause issues with breathing pattern.
Stress is a good example. It doesn’t matter what the cause of stress is, it could be personal life, work life, health concerns, bereavements, whatever, the result will be the same. You will be sympathetically dominated.
People who are suffering with mental health issues are also more likely to be in this state. And people with anxiety are more likely to be affected by breathing dysfunction.
Pain is another sure-fire way to increase your rate and depth of breathing.
The use of certain stimulants may place you in a sympathetic dominant state. Anything from caffeine to cocaine could affect how you breathe. Energy drink fiends please be careful!!
Things which alter your natural breathing pattern
Hormones – PMS, menopause and pregnancy. Sorry ladies, sometimes our hormones can interfere with normal breathing rhythm.
Underlying lung conditions will obviously change the way a person breathes. Some of this we can’t influence, for example structural changes, but that doesn’t mean a person’s symptoms are purely down to the condition. People with asthma are far more likely to present with a breathing pattern disorder – we can’t get rid of the condition, but we can improve the symptoms which people experience.
Other medical conditions such as anaemia, chronic kidney disease or cardiac issues may well be the driver. Again, it’s important to understand what we can and should be trying to change here in terms of breathing. Hence why a good medical knowledge is vital in the management of breathing pattern disorder.
A one-off illness may be enough to alter someone’s breathing and drop them into a dysfunctional pattern. I’m seeing this a lot with coronavirus at the moment.
Allergies – blocked nose – sinusitis. All of these affects how we breathe. People in these groups are more likely to mouth breathe rather than nose breathe, and mouth breathers are more likely to experience breathing dysfunction symptoms.
Speaking all day in your job – teachers, lawyers, sales reps and call centre workers. The more you speak the more carbon dioxide you blow out. A low carbon dioxide is the cause of a whole host of symptoms – brain fog, fatigue, cold hands and feet, feelings of anxiety.
Heat and humidity. Altitude. The list goes on.
Things which alter your biomechanics
If your breathing biomechanics are altered, you are far more likely to experience poor breathing patterns. As with everything to do with dysfunctional breathing – which came first? The breathing pattern disorder or the poor biomechanics?
Poor posture will instantly affect your biomechanics. Rounded, slumped shoulders, forward head position. Moving us from a diaphragmatic breathing pattern to an upper chest pattern.
Computer and screen work are playing a big part here. Not only are some workstation set ups questionable, particularly with people working more from home now, but screen use can also cause the phenomenon known as “screen apnoea”.
When we are concentrating on our screens, be it our phone or PC, many of us hold our breath. Up come the shoulders, jaw clenched, tummy clenched. Then when we remember to breathe it’s a big breath in and a big breath out. Bye bye CO2.
Poor biomechanics can also be present when we’re on the move. Many people, including athletes, adopt poor postures for breathing and develop dysfunctional patterns which can interfere with their levels of performance.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of the range of triggers. And once the trigger or combination of triggers have occurred your breathing pattern has been altered and this is when the physiological and biomechanical changes happen, and the unpleasant symptoms occur.
Unfortunately, by this point the breathing pattern remains even if the trigger has been removed. The breathing pattern disorder has become a thing in its own right.
And to make things more complicated, does everyone who has back pain or experienced a stressful life event get a breathing pattern disorder? No. And I guess that this is why dysfunctional breathing can be hard to diagnose and why it so often missed. Every person has their own unique set of circumstances to trigger the disorder and to make it even more tricky to spot each person has their own individual symptom set.
Just as there are common triggers there are also common signs and symptoms, but the overall presentation can vary enormously from person to person. The skill is being able to put it all together and that’s why I love managing the puzzle that is breathing pattern disorder.
To summarise – how breathing dysfunction starts and how it ends up will be different for each person. No two stories are exactly the same. It’s a complicated beast!
So just like when you get lip filler – go to a medical professional. Make sure they know how to inject. When you want your breathing fixed go to someone with a medical background. You don’t want the breathing equivalent of the “trout pout”!!!