Asthma & Osteopathy

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common condition which affects the small airways (bronchioles) of the lungs. Constriction of these airways causes difficulties with exhalation and often leads to short shallow breaths.

In addition to poor body oxidation, there are many musculoskeletal changes that occur as a result of the altered breathing mechanics.  These changes can lead to joint, muscle and postural dysfunction which can result in pain.


How can it cause pain?

Shallow, or ‘upper rib’, breathing is a common side-effect in asthma patients. These poor breathing habits can lead to postural and mechanical changes throughout the spine.  The most common areas of dysfunction are:

The neck and shoulders: In an attempt to help increase breathing depth, the muscles of the neck and shoulders are often recruited which leads to muscular fatigue and postural adaptations. Within the asthmatic, upper rib breathing mechanics can lead to increased use of these muscles and can pull the head into an anterior position which can increase the load on the joints of the neck and also the potential likelihood of headaches.

The mid-back or “thorax”: Increased workload of the upper ribs can cause pain and sensitivity posteriorly; where the ribs articulate with the spine. This is combined with the lack of movement from the lower ribs (due to poor upper rib breathing) and diaphragm. This lack of movement can lead to stiffness throughout the mid back, limiting normal function. The diaphragm also has a key role in digestion, immune health and the blood flow throughout the body. Movement is the key!

The low back: The thoraco-lumbar junction; an area of the spine at the base of the rib cage, is vital for rotation of the body. If the thorax has limited mobility, the low back may be required to perform larger movements in order to compensate. This can have a negative effect on joint and disc health within the base of the spine and can commonly cause low back pain in later years.

All of these mechanical changes can be avoided with appropriate management. However, if ignored, they tend to have a knock-on effect for dysfunction elsewhere.

anterior neck position


How can osteopathy help?

  • Joint mobilisation and muscular stretching can help to maximise breathing mechanics and reduce pain.
  • Strengthening exercises can be added to treatment plans to help patients maximise postural control and manage symptoms to further avoid pain.
  • Breathing instruction to increase diaphragm use and lower rib expansion.
  • Education of how to best manage symptoms; water, nasal breathing, slow/long/deep inbreathe and out breath.

If you would like more information about asthma and osteopathy and how Teddington Osteopaths can help please contact Dominic Malone or one of our other osteopaths on Tel: 020 8977 3295.