So you’ve probably heard that a slow deep breath can help your stress response and increase your ability to cope? But would you like to understand how stress is affected by your rib cage and breathing? Our remarkable ribs are involved in activating the vagus nerve and inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system and this all happens by the way that our rib cage moves – slow, rhythmic and full or fast, shallow and possibly less evenly… This is the key to activating our brain’s protective stress repsonse and how we can move ourselves from the “Fright, Flight, Fight” mode into the “Rest, Digest, Think & Health” mode. Read or watch further to find out how our remarkable ribs truely are the gatway to our stress response and how stress also affects the functioning of our rib cage. 

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Want to know the secret to maintaining energy levels mood reducing stress and feeling great?

Join me as I discuss the impact of your rib cage on all of this and more.

Welcome to BlossomingMe’s Healthy Learning Lounge, I’m Alexis Weidland, osteopath and today we’re begin a four-part deep dive into the rib cage and how this function is crucial for health. In this series we’ll uncover the secrets to boosting your energy levels improving your mood reducing stress enhancing brain f function and optimizing your posture today we begin with exploring how the rib cage influences not just our breathing but our stress levels, our parasympathetic nervous system, and the mighty vagus nerve, so grab a cup of tea get comfy and let’s begin.

Calm Breathing

Have you ever wondered why a simple deep breath can instantly calm your mind well it all starts with our rib cage you see it’s not just a cage of bones, it’s a dynamic structure. It’s deeply connected to our overall well-being. You may picture your rub cage as a protective shield guarding your lungs and heart but its role goes so much further than that. When you breathe deeply your rib cage expands, sending signals directly to your brain that all is well, this triggers your vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s natural relaxation response and that’s where the magic happens.

When stimulated, our vagus nerve stimulates a release of neurotransmitters that enhance relaxation and reduces our stress response. It puts our body in the rest, digest, think, and heal state. Imagine your stress as a stormy sea, waves crashing and thoughts swirling. Now visualize your rib cage as an anchor, grounding you amidst all that chaos. Deep breathing activates your Vagus nerve, calming the storm and inviting a sense of serenity. Understanding this connection empowers you, by simply being mindful of your breath you can shift from stress and chaos to calm.

This expansion changes the pressure inside the thorax, this upper part of the body, causing the air to flow into the lungs… passively. The diaphragm pulls downward initiating this expansion of the rib cage and also directly changes the pressure pressure, pulling air into our lungs.

As we take a deep breath, this movement also gently presses on the sympathetic chain – nodules that are a collection of the sympathetic nerves, fibers that sit at every level of the spine just in front of where the ribs meet the spine so with every breath the ribs move, causing a rhythmic pressure on these fibers, and when this rhythm is slow, it sends a signal to the brain via the Vegas nerve that all is okay. When it’s fast, it activates the sympathetic nervous system, sending signals to the brain that we’re in distress or in danger and setting up our fright, flight, fight state.

 

What Causes Reduced Rib Cage Function?

Now stress; poor posture; shallow breathing –  which all happens when we’re in pain, and when we’re stressed; and if our rib cage is not functioning properly, all reduce the mobility of our rib cage and this means that even when you try to take a deep breath in, it could feel uncomfortable or impossible or even painful. In order to breathe effectively your rib cage needs to expand allowing space for your lungs to expand.

This expansion changes the pressure inside the thorax, this upper part of the body, causing the air to flow into the lungs… passively. The diaphragm pulls downward initiating this expansion of the rib cage and also directly changes the pressure pressure, pulling air into our lungs.

As we take a deep breath, this movement also gently presses on the sympathetic chain – nodules that are a collection of the sympathetic nerves, fibers that sit at every level of the spine just in front of where the ribs meet the spine so with every breath the ribs move, causing a rhythmic pressure on these fibers, and when this rhythm is slow, it sends a signal to the brain via the Vegas nerve that all is okay. When it’s fast, it activates the sympathetic nervous system, sending signals to the brain that we’re in distress or in danger and setting up our fright, flight, fight state.

Survival

Now this state is essential for survival, it helps us to respond to situations when we need to move fast and be hyper aware of our surroundings but it’s intended to work for short periods and then return back to our resting state where the parasympathetic nerve nerve system is dominant, where your brain and digestive system receive blood flow so that you can think clearly, digest properly and all of your cells can perform their functions including energy production and cellular reproduction, repair and healing.

Staying Too Long In… Survival Mode

When we stay in the sympathetic state for too long the mitochondria in our cells, they signal a cell danger response pattern which reduces our ability to perform essential functions and our ability to create energy. Our brains don’t receive blood for executive function which creates our brain fog; difficulty thinking clearly; we’re less able to make decisions or work through logical sequencing and so on and so on. Plus our digestive function is switched to low so that our gastric juices and digestive enzymes are inhibited, causing incomplete digestion; slow movement through the digestive system; and a reduced ability to absorb nutrients.

 

Your rib cage affects your ability to think

So… What Causes Rib Cage Restriction?

As you can see, the movement of your rib cage affects many things. (but when) But what stops your rib cage from moving properly?

Shallow Breathing

Well shallow breathing from chronic stress states usually, will reduce your rib cage movement and over time all the muscles then tighten up around that, stopping the rib cage from fully being able to expand.

Poor Posture

Poor posture such as rounded shoulders and slouching, compresses your rib cage and reduces the space and the ability to expand fully.

Rib Dysfunction

Rib dysfunctions are actually more common than you’d think and can be caused by repetitive pulling actions, or reaching especially when you’re reaching for something heavy or something really light that you thought was going to be heavy, coughing for example when you had a really bad cold or flu and you’ve coughed quite a lot for a week or more, shoulder issues from overuse and poor use…

All of these will cause the muscles attaching to the rib cage to tighten up, causing the rib cage to be pulled and altered, reducing its ability to function fully.

 

Deep Breathing

Increase Oxygen

Now when we take a slow deep diaphragmatic breath, a calming breath, we expand our rib cage, we use our diaphragm, and we slowly rhythmically press on the sympathetic chain. This allows us to take a complete lung full of air and optimizes our oxygen levels.

Chemical Balance

A full well-functioning rib cage is also essential to allow a good out breath, allowing carbon dioxide and other chemicals and even toxins to be breathed out. The levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood uh, also affects our brain’s perception of danger and of stress, so optimizing these is also essential for cell function, health, and our stress response. The pressure on your sympathetic chain sends signals to your brain that everything is okay and then the vagus nerve is also activated causing the parasympathetic nervous system to be dominant, allowing all your cells to be functioning fully instead of in the danger response mode.

So as you can see the action of a deep breath which requires a well functioning rib cage can set up your whole system for a better stress response and ability to cope, optimal brain function, digestion, and all cellular functions which are essential for great health.

 

So What Can I Do At Home?

So what can you do to support your rib cage to function and to improve your breathing and to support your stress levels? Well if you’re interested in more, I’ve created a short video series taking you through a little more of the anatomy of the rib cage some breathing exercises a few techniques that you can do to help to improve your rib cage function and to switch on the vagus nerve or the parasympathetic nervous system and some myaoascial tools and their associated routines, which you could use daily or a few times a week to improve all of this. Allowing you to increase your breathing ability, improve your posture, and your shoulders and your neck to reduce pain and improve function, as well obviously as to reduce your stress levels.

So if you’d like to find out more click the link below.

Thank you so much for joining me in this exploration of the rib cage and its profound influences on our health and if you found this information valuable please like, share, and subscribe and please add any questions, comments, and insights into the comment section,. Your support fuels us to better serve our community!

Thanks again and in health, bye for now

Your rib cage could be causing your pain, brain fog, stress, and low energy

About Blossoming Me

BlossomingMe offers a fully integrated approach to your wellbeing. Located on Sydney’s Upper North Shore. Sarah is our Cranio-sacral and Remedial Massage Therapist and health and lifestyle coach. She can help relieve those problematic knots, tightness and other specific ailments to promote a healthy recovery. These complementary massage therapies can be combined to suit your needs, and include: craniosacral therapy, shiatsu, acupressure, reiki, remedial, swedish, and body-mind-massage. 

Our qualified Osteopath, Alexis, offers a drug free, minimally invasive, “hands on” treatment focusing on the musculoskeletal system with its associated muscles, tendons, ligaments, membranes, bones and joints. Alexis takes a functional approach. This means that she focuses on the way a component (body part, tissue or group of tissues) performs its role, as well as the way the body works, performs and integrates as a whole. Our team can support you to improve your posture and therefore your overall health.

**Disclaimer** The information provided by BlossomingMe, on our website, in our courses, and in our blogs and posts, is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site and social outlets is not, nor intended to be, a substitute for profess

ional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health professional before you make any changes to your health regime, before dealing with new symptoms, and, if something you have read here has raised any questions or concerns regarding your situation.