Breathing difficulties, or shortness of breath, can be scary, but breathing difficulties are very common. Asthma is not the only thing that can be related to having breathing difficulties; this can be seen as a sign of an underlying chronic condition such as heart diseases, lung disease or obesity. In addition, breathing difficulties can be associated with symptoms of dizziness, fainting, coughing, anxiousness, chest pain, pain with inhalation (pleurisy), wheezing, bloody sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract), back pain and chest injury. Experiencing breathing difficulties can be a part of everyday life for active people as well.

Signs of having breathing difficulties include gasping, wheezing, nasal flaring, cyanosis (where the person’s hands and feet turn a bluish color from the lack of oxygen), rib retractions, and rapid respiratory and heart rate. Those who have a severe breathing difficulty use their neck and chest muscles to breathe.

When shortness of breath lasts for weeks or longer, it is chronic and is most often due to the following:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Deconditioning
  • Heart Dysfunction
  • Interstitial Lung Disease
  • Obesity

Baby Breathing Difficulties and Breathing Difficulties in Kids

If a baby or child has breathing difficulties, it is usually due to respiratory distress. The follow list of signs of baby breathing difficulties and signs of breathing difficulties in kids will help you learn the signs of respiratory distress to see if your child is not getting enough oxygen:

  • Breathing Rate
    Are they increasing their number of breaths per minute? This may indicate that they are having breathing difficulties or they are not getting enough oxygen.
  • Increased Heart Rate
    When oxygen levels are low it can cause an increase in heart rate.
  • Retractions
    Does the chest appear to sink in just below their neck or under the breastbone with each breath? This is one way to try to bring more air into the lungs.
  • Wheezing
    Do you hear a tight whistling or musical sound with each breath they take? This can mean their air passages could be smaller which make it more difficult for them to breathe.
  • Stridor
    This is a sound hear in the upper airway.
  • Changes in Alertness / Mood Change
    Are they acting more tired? More difficult to wake or fussier than usual? Low oxygen levels can cause this and this can be a sign of respiratory fatigue.
  • Accessory Muscle Use
    Do the muscles of their neck seem to be moving as they breathe in?
  • Sweating
    Is there an increase of sweat on their head while the skin does not feel warm? The skin could feel cool or clammy and this can happen when the breathing rate is very fast.
  • Nose Flaring
    When openings of the nose spread open as a person breathes, it can indication that they are having to work harder to breathe.
  • Grunting
    Can you hear a grunting sound each time they exhale? Grunting is the body’s way of trying to keep air in their lungs so they will stay open.
  • Color Changes
    Do you see any bluish color around their mouth, inside the lips or on their fingernails? The color of their skin can also appear pale or gray. When this occurs it means they are not getting the amount of oxygen they need.
  • Change in Body Position
    They could be changing their posture to help them breathe easier by leaning forward or tilting their head up or backwards.

Breathing Difficulties in Adults

While the above symptoms can also be true to spot breathing difficulties in adults as well as breathing difficulties in kids, adults could have more persistent symptoms or have breathing difficulties triggered by additional factors and their symptoms can worsen with age.

It is also possible to experience shortness of breath during a migraine. Migraine breathing difficulties can be during the migraine or shortly after without having any heart issues. Since pressure of pinched nerves around the brain stem cause the migraines, the pinched nerves also do not allow as much blood flow needed to supply the required amount of oxygen to the brain, creating these migraine breathing difficulties.

Breathing Difficulties During Pregnancy

Your breathing during pregnancy may be affected by the increase in the hormone progesterone. This change can cause pregnant women to breathe in more deeply and faster. Some women may notice they cannot take full deep breaths at all. Keep in mind, a fetus does not have to be large to start causing breathing changes. 

Breathing difficulties during pregnancy can also be from the uterus growing and taking up more space. When the uterus enlarges, it can put pressure against your diaphragm (the muscle below the lungs). Your body also needs to provide blood to the baby and needs to increase the amount significantly during your pregnancy. Changes to the way your heart functions can cause breathlessness as the heart has to pump harder to move the blood throughout your body and to the placenta. This increases the workload on your heart and can make you feel short of breath.

As you move into the third trimester of your pregnancy, breathing may get either easier for you or even more difficult – this is dependent on the position of the baby’s head. If the baby’s head is under a rib and pressing against your diaphragm, it can make it harder to breathe. This type of shortness of breath can occur, usually, between 31 and 34 weeks.

Other medical conditions can contribute to breathing difficulties too, however:

  • Asthma
    Pregnancy can make a woman’s asthma symptoms worse.
  • Pulmonary Embolism
    When a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lungs it can dramatically affect your breathing, causing you to cough, have pain in your chest and a shortness of breath.
  • Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
    Those who are pregnant have symptoms of ankle swelling, low blood pressure, fatigue and heart palpitations could be experiencing peripartum cardiomyopathy. This is a type of heart failure that can occur during pregnant or after giving birth.

How can an Upper Cervical Chiropractor Help with Breathing Difficulties?

Our job is to focus on fixing the cause of the issue naturally by looking at your vertebrae – it houses your entire nervous system after all and controls your bodily functions and how it reacts. Upper cervical chiropractors look at the top two bones of your spine, just below the base of your skull and make sure they are corrected to take pressure off of your brain stem so that the brain can fully communicate with the rest of your body. When pressure is taken off of the brain stem, the blood pathways are more open and regulated and changes to your airways and entire spine take place to improve your bodily functions. 

When babies are born, their top two bones can be easily misaligned, disrupting the body’s normal functions including breathing. Children and adults over time can dislocate these top two bones from various activities, changing the way their body functions and the way they breathe – creating breathing difficulties either suddenly or down the road. When a woman is pregnant, her spine can easily get out of place and can affect her breathing overall while her body goes through many changes: When the top two bones are corrected, a domino effect takes place and all other bones will start to follow and become aligned with them (the entire spine follows the top two to ensure the brain stays leveled). All adjustments are gentle and safe for any age – providing you with a natural alternative to help with your breathing difficulties.