Apical Breathing Burnaby Physio
Georgiy Sekretaryuk
December 3, 2015
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Understanding Apical Breathing

Apical Breathing: Breathless by Habit

Take a deep breath in. Now exhale. That was, most likely, the first time today that you consciously thought about breathing.  Breathing is an automatic physical function meaning you don’t have to think about doing it and can instead focus your attention on more pressing issues, such as making coffee in the morning.

However, as much as I love my morning coffee, as I’m sure most of us do, maybe it is time to focus on breathing, and more specifically on breathing patterns.

What is apical breathing?

Apical breathing is a pattern of breath that contains most movement to the upper chest.

Why is that an issue?

Apical breathing uses fewer muscles than diaphragmatic breathing.  While some might say less is more that is not applicable in this case. An apical Apical Breathing Breathlessbreather will use mostly their accessory muscles in their neck and shoulders whereas in diaphragmatic breathing the diaphragm along with muscles in your neck, chest and between your ribs are engaged in order to help get a deep, even breath.

What this means for the apical breather is that the shoulder and neck muscles are doing a ton of work without the reward of a deep breath.


Apical breathing often leaves people out of breath while doing any sort of physical activity. It can also lead to headaches, tension in the upper back, neck pain, shoulder pain and numbness.

What can be done?

Lots! A massage therapist will be able to help release the tension in the overworked neck and shoulder muscles, which can reduce the frequency of headaches and numbness. Your massage therapist can also help you build new breathing habits, so that you’re breathing from the diaphragm. With new habits and relaxed muscles you’ll be able to get back to focusing on your morning coffee in no time. Just remember to breathe.

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If you would like to book an appointment or to learn more about massage therapy at our Burnaby physiotherapy clinic, contact us at 604-558-(CARE) 2273 or click here to request a consultation with our highly qualified massage therapists.

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