Have you ever experienced so much tension in your upper body that you almost found it difficult to take a deep breath? Well, last week one of our clients came in complaining of this very thing. She said it felt like something was wrapped around her rib cage squeezing so tight she couldn’t take a full breath in. She described it as a slightly claustrophobic feeling.
She had been working long shifts at work and the stress of the ever-pending deadline was taking it’s toll on her back. Sound familiar? She typically holds stress and tension in her upper back and shoulders, but this was out of control because it was actually wrapping around to the front!
Her description of something squeezing the ribcage is actually quite accurate. The upper back muscles work together with the muscles of the ribcage and chest to facilitate healthy breathing. When they are all tensed up simultaneously, it can actually constrict the chest from expanding with the lungs.
What you can do to give yourself some relief
Time to break out the foam roller! Here are some things you can do at home to begin to release the tension and make some room for the ribs to expand:
Lay on your side with your arm situated over your head. Place the foam roller just below the armpit and slowly roll down about 1/3 of the way down the torso and then roll back up to the starting point and repeat. When I say slowly I mean slooooowly! You want to give the muscles time to release. Make sure you are taking long deep breaths as you roll! You can also slowly roll front to back as you roll down and you will be release the intercostal muscles as well. Keep this going for 2-3 minutes per side. This exercise will also help to release the rounded shoulders or hunch, which we will discuss further in a later blog post.
We Can Help!
Has the tension in your upper back become so tight you are finding it challenging to breathe? Then you are most certainly due for a series of therapeutic sessions at your friendly neighborhood Austin Ashiatsu. You will want to sign up for an Ashiatsu Therapeutic Massage session for sure. Be sure to request myofascial release in the upper back, chest and even over the side of the rib cage. If you are open to cupping therapy, I would highly recommend adding this to this session. Moving cupping along the rib cage will loosen up the inter-costal muscles giving you immediate breathing room!
Note: If you suspect this might be something more than muscle tension, contact your doctor or a medical facility for a check up!