Eric Beard: Quick Breathing Assessment

Eric Beard explains a breathing assessment to see if the diaphragm is doing its job. It’s quick and easy to perform before programming for your clients.

We talked about the importance of breathing earlier. It’s a big part of our posture and the healthy function of the thoracic spine, but let’s see what that looks like for us now.

I’m going to have Marianna take two or three deep breaths. I’ll give you some different cues you can use with your clients, patients and athletes. Let’s do a few breaths and I’ll tell you what we’re looking for in a moment.

All right, so she’s breathing. That’s a good sign. If you’re alive, we can continue with the session. We don’t need to call anyone here.

One thing I did notice as Marianna breathes in is there’s a significant rise to the rib cage.
The intercostals should be helping.
The scalenes should be helping.
The sternocleidomastoid should be helping . . .
but they’re not the primary muscles of inspiration for us.

That should really be the diaphragm, so we’ve got a lot of synergistic dominance of these muscles up through the cervical area, as well as through the trunk and the rib cage.

If these muscles are doing too much work, it’s going to create rigidity and excessive tone that will not let the rib cage or the thoracic spine move well.

To help highlight this for the individuals we’re working with, I’m going to have Marianna take her left thumb and put it on her belly button and then put your hand just below her belly button. I’m going to have her put your other hand just below her collarbone, flat across the chest here and we’ll just do two or three deep breaths.

This will give me anchor points to watch for.

I should be seeing this bottom hand move out. She should be moving three-dimensionally from the diaphragm in the lower rib cage.

Marianna, tell me. Which hand is moving more—the top hand or the bottom hand?

“The top hand.”

If things are working great, the bottom hand is doing more moving. As you’re breathing, see if you can kind of pull down through the lungs into the diaphragm and put pressure into your hand when you breathe in. This can just be an awareness tool as you’re building toward a corrective strategy even though we’re still in the breathing assessment process.

One more time for us, breathe out in through the belly. You can see it’s a little bit of a challenge. We’ll go ahead and set the hands down. Breathing, we can see there’s some restriction in the diaphragm. If someone is stuck up in this extended posture in the thoracic spine, it can be tough for the diaphragm to pull down to get oxygen in.


Click for information on the full lecture, detailed case studies, new assessment ideas and corrective techniques contained in
Eric Beard’s video, Thoracic Spine Mobility

Eric Beard t-spine mobility video

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