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The Autonomic Nervous System and Breathing



Trigger Points are often associated with Paradoxical Breathing

Paradoxical (or abdominal) breathing is a term used to describe an abnormal chest movement, with the patient’s chest moving inward (or not moving at all) during inhalation rather than outward or forward.

This means that your patient cannot take a functional breath and is most likely a shallow breather.

Paradoxical breathing is a common perpetuating factor, but is easy to check if a patient is presenting with this breath rhythm issue.

Assessing for Correct Rhythm

To assess for correct rhythm, place one hand on your patient’s abdomen. As the patient breathes in, their abdomen should swell as the abdominal cavity extends after the lungs expand.

On breathing out, the patient’s abdomen should come back in. When this occurs, it indicates that their respiratory muscles are healthy.

The patient can move through their physiological range to accommodate the air required and expel residual air.

If the patient’s chest is moving in as the breath comes in, and is moving out as the breath goes out, then this is paradoxical breathing.

This inconsistent breathing includes mouth breathing, which is inefficient and shallow.


Trigger Point therapy - Respitory Muscles

Paradoxical Breathing - assessment for myofascial trigger points includes accessory respiratory muscles, such as the scalenes and the serratus muscles.




Paradoxical breathing may indicate that your patient’s body is not getting the oxygen it needs.

It can occur temporarily during a time of congestion, such as a cold, and then may be maintained out of habit, or because myofascial trigger points have formed in the diaphragm or other respiratory muscles, thus inhibiting their function.

Differential Diagnosis

Training and awareness of proper breathing technique are important, but they are only part of the remedial process. Is adequate air coming in through the nose,
or is there congestion? If so, why?

Check into the possibility of allergies, low-grade sinusitis (sometimes caused by fungal infection), or other problems.

Trigger Point Activity

A myofascial trigger point assessment is also needed, as myofascial trigger points can cause congestion, and their presence in respiratory muscles prevents these muscles from working properly.

An assessment for myofascial trigger points includes accessory respiratory muscles, such as the scalenes and the serratus muscles.



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This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 


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