Because your rib cage doesn’t actively provide your body with motion, you may not realize that it plays a crucial role in healthy functioning. When the spine becomes misaligned, the rib cage can be affected, which restricts movement. Thankfully, chiropractic treatments can help adjust the affected areas and restore the rib cages' functioning.
Formed from the sternum, ribs, cartilage, and the thoracic vertebrae, the rib cage performs three important bodily functions: protecting your vital organs, such as your heart and lungs; providing support for your upper extremities; and assisting with your respiration.
During normal ranges of motion, the rib cage actually moves. When you extend backward, the rib cage expands and moves upward; and when you bend forward, the ribs contract and move downward. During respiration, the rib cage also expands and contracts. Inhale and your ribs elevate; exhale and they move downward.
Because the rib cage is joined directly with the spine, even a small vertebral misalignment can affect one or more ribs and therefore the rib cage’s health and function. Misaligned ribs can lead to pain that radiates around to the sternum or side of the chest, but it also can cause no pain and remain undetected for several months or even longer.
Chronic spinal misalignment, poor posture, and injuries can impair the natural respiratory health of the rib cage, so if you suffer from activity-induced asthma or respiratory distress, the rib cage may be involved. Several muscles, including those in the rib cage, back, neck, and chest, support the muscular function of breathing, chest expansion, and lung capacity, so even a slight spine problem can cause a domino effect of symptoms and conditions, including breathing problems or difficulty with deeply and freely taking in air.
“We notice that breathing difficulty is always related to spinal joint tightness in the upper back,” notes Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic. “People with bronchitis, excessive coughing for any reason, asthma, upper respiratory infections, and COPD all have significant spinal joint dysfunction that needs to be adjusted by a chiropractor to achieve full function and healing.”
Shortness of breath can happen for several reasons, including forward head posture, which can reduce vital lung capacity by 20–30%; straight spine syndrome, which exhibits loss of normal curvature that causes less space for lung expansion; a hunched posture, which inhibits full lung expansion; intercostal muscle tightness and spasms, which limit rib cage movements and lung volume capacity; and nerve dysfunction in the unconscious breathing mechanism.
By focusing on correcting possible spinal misalignments, a chiropractor addresses the cause of the issues rather than the symptoms. As such, chiropractic care is a natural, non-invasive way to help alleviate breathing problems. Working with a chiropractor and receiving regular chest adjustments may improve your chest expansion and flexibility over time, which allows the lungs more room to expand and take in more oxygen.
The first step is identifying misalignments to determine why there is trouble filling your lungs. Then correcting the misalignments leads to improved lung volume capacity and increased chest expansion and flexibility.
Sometimes, however, the problem is not the lungs’ ability to expand but rather their inability to receive the message to take in more air, so some chiropractic care also strengthens the signals from the brain to the lungs. In such cases, the breathing difficulty is due to subluxations in the spine that are compressing the nerves regulating the lungs. The brain sends signals to the lungs to increase oxygen intake, but when the nerves regulating the lungs are compressed, the lungs never receive the message and will never increase air intake.
“The nerves that lead to your lungs go through the spinal column in your upper back,” explains Dr. Gross. “When your back is tight and stiff, or even in pain, it creates compression and inflammation around those nerves, which causes them to lose communication to your lungs. Chiropractic adjustments restore proper nerve communication between your brain and your lungs.”
Chiropractic also adjustments reduce muscle spasms, increases range of motion, and break up adhesions that limit full inspiration and expiration. Postural adjustments create new muscle memory for a good posture. Spinal traction remodels the shape of the spinal curve to reduce abnormal lung pressure on the lungs and nervous system.
“We also can treat lung problems with our MLS Laser,” offers Dr. Gross, “which increases energy in your cells to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation. It is very powerful and has excellent results for patients with allergies, COPD, or residual COVID-19 breathing problems. Contact us to see if you are a candidate for this effective treatment.”
Many patients have reported improvements in energy and respiratory function after receiving chiropractic adjustments to their spine, ribs, and even their shoulder blades. “We had one patient in his 70s who was diabetic, had COPD, and used a portable oxygen tank daily,” relates Dr. Gross. “After adjusting his thoracic spine for three months, his respiratory therapist reported a 37% increase in lung capacity. It was so significant that he no longer needed his oxygen tank.”
If you or anyone you know is suffering from breathing troubles or stiffness in the torso, contact us at Quality Care Chiropractic in Aurora, IL, at (630) 499-2225. We can answer your questions and help you breathe easier on your way back whole-body health.Schedule an Appointment