Be A Better Belly Breather!

Stress is a Major Cause of Many Headaches

Overcome the stress that triggers so many of your headaches! The mental strain of your daily activities overflows into the muscle tension of your headache. You need to short-circuit the stress trigger before your headache takes hold.

How Can Mental Stress Produce Physical Triggers?

People under stress breathe with their shoulders hunching with every breath.  Why is this bad? Two of the main headache-producing muscles, which are the upper trapezius and the sternocleidomastoid muscles, attach to both your head and collarbone. As your collarbone rises during stressful breathing, these muscles get tight and prime your system for yet another headache. You may be breathing with hunched shoulders all the time, even when you are not under immediate stress.

How Do I Breathe Without Tightening My Headache Muscles?

Try belly breathing as a method to keep these muscles quiet. Your mind may also slow down and stop racing. You break the stress to tense breathing to extra stress to more tense breathing cycle.

Put one or both hands on your abdomen, and feel your stomach protrude as you breathe in. As you exhale, the stomach flattens. The pace of your breathing slows and you allow your mind to sink into a deeper state of relaxation.

Difficulty You May Have Belly Breathing

Many people have a hard time coordinating their breathing pattern properly. Put one hand on your chest you can check to make sure that you are not lifting your chest as you breathe in. Keep the other hand on you belly as you breathe. Remember, as you breath in, the belly protrudes outward. Your belly flattens as you breathe out.

If you still cannot get the hang of belly breathing, lie flat or in a recliner and put a light object on your stomach. Watch the object rise on your abdomen as you inhale, and watch it sink down as you exhale. Allow the slower pace of your breathing to help disengage yourself from the stress you are going through.

Incorporate Relaxation Techniques Into Your Care Plan

People on occasion have come into the clinic with headaches in the 6-8/10 range and needed to untangle the sheer stress that was their main problem. Their headaches fade to nothingness simply by doing the better breathing method, incorporating only verbal muscle relaxation techniques while lying flat.  For example, after one such session, one headache sufferer thanked me for getting rid of her headache. As she left the room, I told my student intern, “She thanked us even though we did not actually do anything. But we did.”

What Else Can I Do to Help My Significant Stress?

The breathing technique is just one piece of the solution to your stress response. It may be a good idea to see a healthcare professional, such as a health psychologist, to help you deal with any underlying personal situations that keep your stress meter at a high level. Headaches are a combination of physical structural issues and emotional and psychological factors. Address both the muscles and the mind for your best headache relief outcome!



-You understand that if not done properly, some techniques and exercises described in this blog could harm you. Any activities you perform are at your own risk, and you expressly agree to waive any claims against the author for any harm that may arise from your own actions. By reading this blog and conducting these exercises, you accept this risk. This blog provides content related to physical and/or mental health issues. As such, your use of techniques described acts as your acceptance of this disclaimer. Consult Chapter 2 in my book, “Calming the Headache Storm” to make sure the headache is not the sign of a more serious problem. The techniques, advice and strategies contained in this blog may not be suitable for every individual and should be abandoned if your headache increases. Seek the advice of your physician.


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