Researchers from BCN MedTech and UPC reveal that a large part of the population are having breathing difficulties, which may be due to muscle contraction.
Published Gait & Posture, a study by Simone Tassani, Miguel Ángel González Ballester and Jérôme Noailly, members of BCN MedTech, along with the participation of Josep M. Font-Llagunes, a researcher at the UPC, has shown that muscle tension significantly reduces an individual’s stability and induce breathing difficulties.
Posture could take your breath away
Muscle co-contraction is typically used in elderly individuals to increase their stability. Co-contraction involves the simultaneous contraction of pairs of muscles from opposing groups to lock a joint and provide stability.
However, co-contraction can also lead to stiffness, which in turn reduces stability, and is why some authors have suggested the opposite approach by pointing to relaxation to improve stability.
Nevertheless, many studies do not clarify whether tension or relaxation is the more effective strategy.
Therefore, in society, relaxation is a misleading concept because it tends to be confused with rest when it is actually a mechanism that reduces energy expenditure and heighten stability during stress. The inability to relax may be related to suboptimal neuro-motor control that can lead to increased tension.
The study had the goal of investigating the effect in humans regarding voluntary muscle contraction and relaxation on the stability of the standing posture to find out if muscle tension has an impact on stability and to estimate this impact using minimally invasive procedures.
The importance of muscle stability
The researchers used force plates to measure the pressure centre in a standing position, in balance studies in 30 volunteers during states of tension and relaxation, and in two visual situations, eyes open and eyes closed.
Simone Tassani, first author of the article explains: “Our results show that daily stress situations can lead to a decrease in stability. A loss of stability may increase the risk of chronic overload or falling”.
Moreover, the study shows that breathing has a direct effect on pain and stress management.
Tassani adds: “The results presented here demonstrate the need to explicitly explore the worrying fact that a large part of the population might not be able to breathe properly”.
One of the conclusions of the study is that for many young participants, abdominal breathing seems to be a difficult task. However, the study also demonstrated that in a standing position, vision has an interaction effect with relaxation.