At Range of Motion Physical Therapy Lucan, I have been working with a client who has suffered from Facial Paralysis his entire life. My client approached me a month ago following on from writing an blog on Diaphragmatic Breathing, he explained that he does a lot of running and has always felt the right side Facial Paralysis has effected his breathing. When he runs he feels his right lung does not fill completely and thus he tires quickly and feels very labored.

On examination of his breathing pattern it was obvious he was a chest breather with tight neck and low back muscles, also when breathing I could see his left side was expanding more than his right.

In those of us that are chest breathers we use our neck muscles more (specifically Scalene and SCOM muscles), these muscles would be used to lift the ribs in chest breathers. With my client it stands to reason that his Facial Paralysis would inhibit these neck muscle thus restricting his right side chest breathing pattern.

In terms of a treatment I focused on getting him to change his breathing habit and have him learn to breath through his diaphragm more and remove the influence of his weaker neck muscles. I also released his neck muscles, diaphragm and low back muscles used in the breathing cycle. As a home exercise programme I gave a number of breathing exercises that helped queue him to use his diaphragm more and focus on his weaker right side. He progressed through a couple of stages over 2 weeks.

After only 2 weeks he has noticed a difference in how he breaths (more Diaphragmatic) and feels more control and strength in his right side. At his last appointment I included more basic core straightening exercise to do in conjunction with some more breathing progressions.

I got a great email from him after doing a run session with his club last night…

Hi Andy
Was running this evening and tried to use the new breathing technique. Not sure if I got it 100 per cent but definitely made a difference even the bad effort. However once I got tired I found myself slipping into old habits, but tried to refocus and it worked a bit. My legs didn’t seem to get as tired as before and it felt easier in general.

I am surprised in one way how quickly my body has adapted to it. Though obviously still have a lot to do, but seeing such improvements in such a short time is very encouraging.

Great improvements but still work to do to change a habit of a life time…