The importance of breathing exercises when you have lower back pain - Limitless Physio in New Milton

This is one of the foundations of the start of your treatment plan at Limitless Physiotherapy & Performance in New Milton if you have an acute flare-up of lower back pain.

The autonomic nervous system has two components, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system functions like a gas pedal in a car. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, providing the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers (

Often, when we get lower back pain, our fight or flight response kicks in. This causes your heart rate to elevate, respiratory rate to elevate and subsequently you use a lot more of the accessory muscles of breathing, surrounding the neck and chest, rather than the main breathing muscle - the diaphragm.

This can cause stress, which subsequently can lead to increased pain. Aches and pains are a common complaint that can result from increased levels of stress. Some studies have found that chronic pain may be associated with higher levels of stress as well as increased levels of cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone.

For example, one very small study compared people with chronic back pain to a control group. It found that those with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol Vachon-Presseau et al (2013).

Prolonged stress and inefficient breathing can lead to reduced ribcage mobility, which can lead to suboptimal movement at the

pelvis, neck and limbs.

Breathing exercises can help you to improve your RIBCAGE MOBILITY & get your nervous system away from the 'fight or flight' response and into the 'rest & digest' response.


  • Lie on your back/sat slightly upright if needed.

  • Close your eyes.

  • Take a deep breath in through nose, filling your lungs with air, allowing your ribcage to elevate higher.

  • Now breathe out slowly through the mouth (through pursed lips) for as long as you can. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and make sure your shoulders do not rise upwards as you breathe.

  • Repeat for 6-8 breaths.

  • You Should feel your abdominal muscles tightening at the end of the exhale.

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