How a shoulder injury led to better respiratory function & whole body function
When we think of improving respiratory health, we often think about breathing exercises. They can be important for sure, but they aren't everything. Let me explain about a client's respiratory situation to demonstrate. With the current covid pandemic and hassles some people have had in their recovery, this article may explain some useful information to help you or someone you know.
🫁 Posture & Respiratory Function
When we spend more time sedentary (sitting in an office chair), your spine goes into a flexed posture and the muscles throughout your body but also in your lower back, pelvis and hips become tight and less active. The change in posture can then affect your lung itself, hindering normal lung function and respiratory depth. Improving your whole spine posture, muscle function and thereby the effect on your lungs can produce great benefits.
🤕An Asthmatic Guy with a Shoulder Injury
This poor guy (a truck driver) attended physio for an unrelated problem with his body, a shoulder injury. The shoulder problem had been giving him lots of problems and he had sought help from a great number of therapists and even the opinion of a specialist. His shoulder didn’t need urgent surgery so rehabilitation for an initial time of 6 weeks is recommended to see what we could do.
🤝🏻Initial Breathless Presentation
Sitting in the chair across from me he was struggling to breathe. His shoulders were elevated and he had to pause frequently during conversations. I asked him about it and he put it down to his asthma. He had become used to this and was doing everything that had been suggested to him so far (and everything he had researched on the web. He was taking 6 puffs of his Ventolin daily (and he was still struggling like this). His pressing concern was his left shoulder so I didn’t discuss his respiratory problem beyond agreeing with him that it appeared to be a big hindrance.
👎Compensations to maintain function
Somehow, this guy was still performing physically well in some areas of life in spite of this problem (and his respiratory issues). I guess his body had worked out ways to make his body function through compensations. It didn’t look (or sound) like much fun though.
⌛Rehabilitation - Slow Progress
We started his rehabilitation and we met for several sessions working through a variety of ways to get the shoulder moving. Fairly soon I noticed that it wasn’t responding as quickly as it should be. I explained that there must be something hindering his progress and advised that we need to have a look at his whole body to find what is dysfunctional. I explained that this would yield far quicker results and his shoulder would respond much faster. But, without an ACC claim, he would have to pay privately which was challenging due to a recent large bill to fix a leak in his home that he had to pay.
❤️🩹The Rehabilitation - the easy breathing change
Eventually he returned for his whole body assessment. His assessment revealed that he had considerable hip & pelvis muscle weakness (which may have related to his previous total hip replacement which hadn’t had rehabilitation or strengthening). After his first session, he noticed considerable improvement in shoulder function which was brilliant after the slow progress it had made previously. But, surprisingly for him, he had noticed considerable improvement in his breathing! He reported that he was no longer taking 6 asthma puffers per day and was down to 1 per day. Sitting across from me in the chair, his shoulders were almost fully relaxed and he was no longer in obvious respiratory distress. What a huge change.
😷🚶😊Covid, whole body function & respiratory health
With the current covid management strategy involving home (or managed) isolation and the resulting increase in sedentary behaviour my concern is that some of the respiratory dysfunction people may experience may be partly explained by inactivity and loss of muscle function in important areas of the body (especially the pelvis/hips and lower back). Keeping your whole body functioning well has huge benefits in not only your respiratory system (and respiratory conditions/problems) but all your body function. And if a problem arises, the solution may not be what you thought it was from.
NOTE: Details have been changed to protect this client’s privacy.