Breathing Issues

Andrea Mohrle, MSPT, JSCC Release! Manual Therapy
Olympia, Washington

Breathing issues can have a variety of causes, and illness is usually attributed to be the root of the problem. Examples of minor illness include colds and sinus infections. Serious illness includes heart disease, lung cancer, and pneumonia. Chronic conditions such as allergies, athsma, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) also cause breathing difficulty. However, what if you have breathing problems without illness? Some of these symptoms include tightness in the chest, difficulty taking a deep breath, pain in the chest, upper back or shoulder with deep or heavy breathing. Or what if you have symptoms of a respiratory illness without a detectible cause? Compression of the chest and emotional stress or anxiety can also cause these types of problems. While medical treatment addresses the illness contributing to breathing problems, persons with issues not caused by significant illness may be participating in breathing exercises, meditation, stress management, postural training, stretching, exercise, or a variety of manual therapies to address this problem with variable or temporary results.


How does Fascial Counterstrain treat breathing issues? First, let us look at what could be causing problems within the ribcage. What is often overlooked with conventional remedies, is the protective spasm in the connective tissue - fascia - surrounding the arteries, veins, lymphatic vessels, and nerves traveling through the ribcage, as well as fascia within muscles, tendons, and the anchors for organs such as the heart and lungs. These protective spasms are created in the body to protect a structure from injury, real or perceived. Once triggered, they tighten the fascia, limiting movement and causing pain when movement exceeds this restricted range. Fascia within the outer layer of sympathetic nerves going to the heart and lungs, when in protective spasm, will over stimulate the organs and contribute to a higher level of stress or anxiety within the body. Left unaddressed, this could lead to elevated blood pressure and also a variety of anxiety disorders. With Fascial Counterstrain treatment, the practitioner will assess which systems are involved and will treat each of these in the order of severity – worst first. Treatment consists of manual decompression of the structure in spasm by shortening it, which turns off the neurological reflex perpetuating the spasm and allows improved blood flow to and from the affected tissue, which will also resolve associated local inflammation. Thus, normal tissue mobility is regained, allowing for improved range of motion without pain. The ribcage is able to move more freely, the lungs are able to expand more effectively, sympathetic stimulation of the organs is normalized, reducing anxiety and stress. Can Fascial Counterstrain help with breathing issues when someone has an illness? Yes, however, the medical problem should be addressed and stabilized first. This will prevent a pathological condition from perpetually irritating the connective tissues, which would cause symptoms to return. However, there is often a reflexive neurological component to an illness, and releasing this dysfunction will improve blood flow and reduce tension within the associated tissues, thus improving the body’s ability to heal.