"This doesn't happen!" the pulmonologist exclaimed as he read the results of the breathing test. My patient had just had her second spirometric exam about three months after the first one. A spirometric exam will show us how much breath you can take in and blow out, how fast it goes, and point to things that don't work right in your breathing structures.
What the pulmonologist didn't know was that my patient had received an upper cervical chiropractic correction two weeks before. In her case, we only got her head and neck to come back in line. So what is the connection with breathing troubles?
Here are some questions that help us answer that question.
1. If I can't get a good breath, is it my ribs and muscles that are stiff?
Yes, tightness in the rib muscles and restriction of the ribs motion (sometimes by a badly curved back) can cause a mechanical problem with the breathing structures. In fact, research shows that having chiropractic manipulation of the upper back (thoracic spine) helps improve breathing scores. Also, soft tissue work, like massage or myofascial physical therapy helps in the same way to reduce muscle tension in the ribs.
2. What if the breathing problem is due to openings in the airways that are too small?
That's where the upper cervical chiropractic procedures come into play. We know from basic science that the brainstem at the top of the neck is in charge of keeping the "tightening nerves" (the sympathetic nerves) in check. When there is too much activity in that set of nerves, the lung tissues constrict, blood vessels constrict, and body tissues lose health and ability. When we correct the misalignment at the top of the neck, normal healing flow is restored into the body, and especially the lung tissues.
3. How can I find out which type of care will help the most?
Since it is true that tight ribs and muscles make breathing difficult, and that upper cervical chiropractic restores normal function to posture, rib balance and muscle tone, then it's clear that upper cervical chiropractic can be the best and most efficient first step in restoring breathing ability. There can be additional benefit from other procedures that I already mentioned, and I encourage patients to use all of these additional helpers.
4. So what was the full story with hustle drops your patient?
She came to me for low back pain and received help there but also better health in all areas! She was originally diagnosed with severe COPD, but after the second test the diagnosis changed to mild COPD. Isn't that exciting to know that one region of the spine, the upper cervical spine, can have such global influence over health?