Back Pain: The Breathing and Balance Connection

There’s so much that we still don’t know about the human body. Every single part of your body is somehow connected to every other part, and many of them have a direct impact on one another. One connection that I see all the time in my patients is the connection between your breath, your balance, and your back.

Pain or weakness in the back, as well as poor balance, can stem from problems with nasal breathing. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I can try to show you what I’ve found with my patients over the years.


Back Pain and Breathing: A Case Study. I once had a patient come to me after seeking treatment for pain and weakness from two other orthopaedists. He worked as a nurse at a nursing home and had recently been assaulted by one of the patients. Now, this patient was a big dude, so you might think that he could just brush an incident like this off.

After this event, he was out of work with horrible back pain. He came to me desperately looking for a solution. I conducted some ANMRT balance tests, which showed that his balance was compromised, and I also detected a problem with his nasal breathing. In the end, my patient opted for nasal surgery to clear his airway, which thankfully, we were able to get covered by workman’s compensation. After the surgery, his breathing improved dramatically and his back pain and weakness disappeared.


What Balance Tests Tell Us. I run different balance tests on all of my patients to learn more about their bodies and move towards finding the source of their complaints. First, I check a patient’s balance with their eyes open and then closed, to test the integrity of the peripheral nervous system (the nerves in the limbs and extremities).

The next step is to check a patient’s balance with their head in different positions. I test for balance with their head turned to either side and then turned up or down. This series of tests allows me to evaluate what’s going on in the central nervous system. When a patient loses their balance while turning their head, that indicates that there is a problem with either the neck, upper or lower back, or sacroiliac (SI) joint.

Once I have a better idea of where the problem lies, I check for tenderness along the spine and see if there are any indications of a breathing problem.


Breathing Strip Magic Trick. I’ll be the first to admit that this seems like a magic trick. Whenever I recognize that a patient has both balance, breathing, and back problems, I give them a breathing strip to put across their nose. This usually causes the pain or weakness in the back, as well as the balance issues to disappear. It seems crazy, but it proves the connection between breathing, back pain, and balance.

From there, I try to find the cause of the obstructed breathing, and there are many different possible causes. A deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, or excessive inflammation in the sinuses can all cause one or both nasal passages to completely obstruct breathing.

Once we’ve gotten to the root of the problem, I make a treatment plan that will help my patient find a permanent solution to these interconnected issues.

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