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Help with sore accessory muscles/cervical root syndrome

I went to the doctor today because of pain radiating from my neck to my finger tips that is often made worse when it is hard to breathe and I'm using upper chest accessory muscles. He suspects I might have cervical root syndrome. Either that or I pulled a muscle from coughing and/or overusing accessory muscles.

But the diagnosis is less important than the effect - on and off it hurts to use my upper chest muscles to breathe. I'm trying to use my abs more, but my chest is feeling tighter in response. I've been taking 2 paracetamol about every six hours but it only partially helps with the pain. It hurts less to breathe, but a dull radiating pain is still there.

Any tips? (low tech pain management, ideas picked up from your physiotherapy, and even zany, crackpot :-), half serious humorous suggestions welcome

4 Replies

Hi Beth,

I had this issue and I have found using diaphragmatic (excuse spelling) breathing and 'the breathing cycle' as taught by a resp physio has got rid of most of the pain as im breathing using the right bits of my lungs now (unless I have an attack).



Agree with Angelica - exactly what I was going to say ;) I can't breathe with my rib cage so have to use diaphragmatic breathing all the time. Hopefully it will hurt less and it's also good for ya lungs :)


Hi Beth, I find the more I struggle and the longer the more my accessories and ribs hurt and back etc. I had an appointment with a chest physio months ago after being referred by my old cons and was having a good lung day at the time. So at the apt was able to breathe as I usually do when well - being a singer etc I tend to use my diaphragm anyway unless struggling to breathe. Had one apt and was discharged as there was no breathing pattern problem. I was told though that to use diaphragm also during an attack. I find this impossible. Was also told not to yawn/sigh as this is another form of hyperventilating, but find I do this a lot when air trapping which is both painful and it feels impossible to take a decent breath in.

Hmm, turned into a ramble, but what I think I'm trying to say is that you're not the only one, the pain and breathing going to pot is normal - even as a trained singer etc and don't be surprised if physio don't pick anything up, but equally they might and it could make a huge difference!!

Hope you're feeling ok at the min! xxx


Angelica and NurseFurby: thank-you so much for your responses and for sharing your experiences and encouraging me to keep at the diaphramatic breathing. I had been breathing diaphramatically until recently and then had gotten sloppy. Your encouragement to keep at using the diaphragm even if it felt like it was harder to breath and less effective to use the diaphram really did help.

I've also noticed another thing that might be causing problems: when I have trouble breathing I tend to raise my shoulders. I'm not breathing with my shoulders, just holding the chest cage higher. Relaxing the shoulders helps reduce pain problems but also makes breathing noticeably more difficult. Any ideas, suggestions for alternatives to raising the shoulders/rib cage? Or is this just another trade-off (muscles vs. breathing) that I just have to live with?

Laurs: thanks for remembering the wierdness trained singers sometimes have. Sometimes I think we live in a different breathing land - but hardly surprising given the amount of training some voice teachers spend on breath management. It always puzzles me how many people who specialize in the respiratory tract have so little understanding of what singers do when using their instrument. Or even the possibilities available of controlling and shaping air flow. Shaping air flow is really what the technical side of singing is all about: managing force/flow levels/direction to get the right resonance, volume with minimal stress on those delicate little vocal cords.

I have an appointment with an orthopedist in early December and I'm going to try to push for physio - it may help and may not, but it is worth a try. I'm also going to ask for this from my new pulmonologist. Keeping in mind what you just wrote, when and if I get a referral I'll ask around my singer/voice work friends to see if I can find a physio who is familiar with singers and their quirks.


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