Inhale, Exhale, Relieve Back Pain

Changing how you breathe can dramatically reduce or even eliminate lower back pain.

Breathing is the most automatic of our body’s functions, an act we rarely, if ever, think about. But how you breathe can cause lower back pain and being more conscious of that can help you live pain-free. Here’s what you need to know.

Your Diaphragm
A flat muscle that attaches to the base of the ribcage, your diaphragm contracts to initiate breathing. When it contracts, it pushes out your belly, increasing your lungs’ capacity. The diaphragm is also attached to the front of your spine as well as to some abdominal muscles.

Chest Breathing
When we’re under stress – by work, relationships or even intense exercise – we tend to “chest breathe,” or draw shallow breaths without using the diaphragm. This shallow breathing limits the amount of fresh oxygen that gets to your muscles and organs.

Open Scissors Syndrome

Instability in your “core” is one of the most common causes of lower back pain.

Chest breathing also leads to what physiologists call “Open Scissors Syndrome,” a condition in which the rib cage and pelvis become unstable and point in opposite directions like the blades of scissors.
This increases the curvature of your spine and decreases stability in your abdominal or “core” region.
Instability in your “core” is one of the most common causes of lower back pain.

Retraining Exercise
Retraining yourself to breathe with your diaphragm builds your abdominal stability and reduces lower back pain. Try this exercise to start your retraining.

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.

2. Place your hands at your waist, giving pressure on either side into the soft, spongy area of your abdomen just below your rib cage.

3. Inhale, focusing on lateral or side-to-side movement of your rib cage while picturing your abdomen as a cylinder filling up with air from the same pressure at all sides.

4. After 10 to 15 breaths, put pressure into your hands on your inhale as if you would feel your hands filling up with pressure.  You may feel one side turn on quicker or with a stronger contraction.  Focus then on this diaphragmatic breathing while putting more pressure into the side that was more difficult to contract.

5. To retrain your diaphragm, do 30 to 40 reps of this exercise several times a day. In a week or two, you’ll start breathing from your diaphragm habitually and, before long, you’ll be putting much less pressure on your spine, reducing or completely eliminating chronic lower back pain.

ADVISORY: There are many causes of lower back pain. If changing your breathing habits doesn’t reduce your symptoms, see your healthcare provider for a more in-depth analysis of the causes and possible treatments.




  1. Djuro

    The more I exercise, the more I notice I’m having a bad posture or have a shallow breath as sit while I work. I’ll keep these exercises in mind for when lower back pain attacks. Thank you for compiling them!

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