by Osteopath Nicole Owen-Tighe

While one month of zero Covid-19 cases in Victoria is something to celebrate, many of us are finding that our lives have suddenly gone from zero to one hundred! Maybe your job has gone back to full-time hours, or maybe your children’s extra-curricular activities have taken over your weekends. And all with Christmas around the corner! 

2020 has been an extremely arduous year for everyone, and although our body is equipped to deal with stress in small doses, when it accumulates over time, it can have very damaging consequences to our health. It is important that we are able to recognise stress and find a healthy way to manage it before our body starts to suffer!  

Prolonged stress may present itself in a variety of different ways, but here at CSSM we most commonly see the physical manifestations in the form of musculoskeletal aches and pains. This may present in the form of muscle cramps or spasms, tightness, stiffness and restrictions in range of motion. This can become quite uncomfortable and can significantly impact our mood and the way in which we perform our activities of daily living. Common areas to experience these symptoms include the upper back, shoulders, neck and even in the jaw and head. For some people, this can lead to further issues including a range of different headaches, particularly migraines.  
A growing number of studies have identified that diaphragmatic breathing, or ‘belly breathing’ can actually help to trigger relaxation responses within the body which benefit both our physical and mental health.  This type of breathing may help to reduce muscular tension and therefore minimise the associated aches and pains. 
Give this ‘3 2 4’ breathing exercise a go at home 
1. Firstly, lie down on your back, place a pillow under your knees and get comfortable.  Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.  
2. Take one big inhale through your nose as you count to up to 3. You want your belly to move outward, but your chest to stay quite still. 
3. Hold that breath for 2 seconds. 
4. Exhale completely by breathing out through your mouth for 4 seconds.  
5. Repeat this 5-10 times and try to be mindful of how this exercise made you feel.  

If you are currently experiencing any musculoskeletal symptoms, contact CSSM to consult with one of our friendly practitioners. We can discuss the issue at hand, and from there come up with a solution to help manage your pain, whether that be through hands-on treatment, an at home exercise program, or specific tips and tricks suited to your individual needs!  

Nicole Owen-Tighe is an Osteopath with an interest in treating athletes. Nicole enjoys helping her clients get back into training and competing post injury as well as treating the lower limb, including lower back and pelvic pain. An RMIT graduate with Distinction, Nicole is also a qualified pilates instructor and has previously worked at the RMIT health clinic and Coburg and Manningham football clubs as a sports trainer. 
American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body. 

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., & Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 874.