Are you Breathing?

So you are alive therefore you must be breathing, it’s the one thing we can’t live without. Yet it is the one thing we take most for granted and do incorrectly.
We breathe just enough to live but do we breathe for optimal health and mental functioning?  Breathing is an essential life function having a huge influence on our physical, physiological and psychological wellbeing.

We have all at one stage or another experienced a very emotional time in our lives that may have had us holding our breaths or adopting a very shallow type of breathing. In many people this abnormal breathing pattern persists long after the challenging event is over. This creates a dysfunction that disrupts the homeostasis (balance) in our bodies.


This can create a condition known as Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome. In simple terms, breathing too quickly with the incorrect muscles and not breathing enough carbon dioxide out. Our bodies sit in a delicate chemical balance of acidity and alkalinity and when we accumulate carbon dioxide in our bodies this balance gets disturbed. Over-breathing starves us of optimal oxygen supply and uptake.

This imbalance then goes on to affect many systems in the body and accounts for some of the  ‘unexplained’ ailments that many people suffer from such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel, neck and back pain, female gynaecological problems, anxiety, nerve and muscle dysfunctions and pain, memory problems, chronic pain, fatigue…….now to any of these sound familiar???

In the following months we will cover in more depth, how over- breathing causes these problems. In the meantime here is a little questionnaire you can go through to determine how your breathing may be affecting your health. Simply answer it, determine your score and contact us if there is any concern.

How can we change poor breathing patterns ?

Imagine if we could all breathe more efficiently ……we could reduce our pain and improve the function of our bodies…… with something as simple yet as vital as breathing.

Our approach to treating breathing dysfunctions in our patients is as follows:

  • Assessment of breathing patterns and possible implications of this in other conditions our patients present with, such as neck and back pain, musculoskeletal pain, stress, anxiety and fatigue.
  • Awareness of how you are breathing.
  • Manual mobilisation of the rib cage, spine, soft tissues including the diaphragm.
  • Postural awareness and exercises.
  • Breathing exercises.
  • Stress and lifestyle management.

The following questionnaire although not diagnostic, can offer a strong indication of the effect that poor breathing patterns may be having on your health.

[Download not found]


Mark how often you suffer from any of these symptoms





Less than monthly



More than monthly- Less than weekly



At least weekly but not daily



At least daily

Chest Pain
Feeling Tense
Blurred Vision
Dizzy Spells
Feeling Confused
Faster/deeper breathing
Shortness of breath
Tight feeling in chest
Bloated feeling in stomach
Tingling fingers
Unable to breathe deeply
Stiff fingers or arms
Tight feelings around mouth
Cold hands or feet
Feelings of anxiety

TOTAL:     /64

A score of above 23 is an indication that your breathing patterns may be affecting your health.


Chaitow L 2007. Understanding Breathing Massage & Bodywork

Foster G, Vaziri N, Sassoon C 2001 Respiratory Alkalosis. Respiratory Care 46:4 384-389

Humphries RL, Baguley DM, Andersson G, Wagstaff S 2004 Hyperventilation in the vestibular clinic: Use of the Nijmegen Questionnaire. Clinincal Otolaryngology & Allied Sciences 29:3 232-237

JanssensL, Brumagne S, Polspoel K, Troosters T, McConnell A 2010 The effect of inspiratory muscles fatigue on postural control in people with and without recurrent low back pain. Spine 1:35(10): 1088-1094

Simons J, Travell J, Simons L 1999 Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual vol 1: 829-830



Van Dixhoorn J, Duivenvoorden H 1985. Efficiency of Nijmegen Questionnaire in Recognotion of the Hyperventilation Syndrome, Journal of Psychosomatic Research 29 : 199-206

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Cheryl Stacey BSc (Physio) SPT

Cheryl qualified from Wits in 1993 and worked for a variety on practices locally and abroad to gain a vast scope of practice. She opened her own practice in 1999 seeing orthopaedic and sports patients as well as 6 years spent treating post- operative spinal patients.

Comments (1)

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    Interesting.. very informative, …
    Although I’m touching 70, I score an honest 9/64.
    I would call that good. Nice to be able to say that!


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