How To Release Your Upper Ribs For A Deep Full Breath, Less Pain, And More Energy

Simple Release For Upper Ribs Helps With Deeper Breathing

Today's episode reveals how to get a full deep breath by releasing your upper ribs and scalene muscles.

Better oxygenation means less pain and more energy. 

So watch the short video for a self test to see if you are "over breathing" or creating the phenomenon called "respiratory alkalosis" which causes your oxygen to stay in your blood instead of being delivered to the tissues for energy!

The simple technique shown will also help you release your scalene muscles and upper ribs to start eliminating the trigger points that can cause:

- hand and wrist pain that can mimic carpal tunnel syndrome

- elbow pain that can mimic tennis elbow or golfer's elbow

- shoulder pain that can mimic rotator cuff tendonitis, arthritis, and bursitis

- chest pain that can mimic heart problems

- upper back pain and more!

As always…leave me a comment and tell me how this feels or what it does for you.  You can leave questions for me as well! (I often use questions as fodder for upcoming episodes)

If you like this content, there's TONS MORE actionable strategies in the Core Wellness Institute


    • No, it’s not normal, Shawn. It may be because you are used to breathing up high in your chest to oxygenate and when you are forced to expand your lower ribs to breathe you’re not getting as much oxygen.

      It could also be because you are being too aggressive. Go VERY easy with the pressure from your hands and just do a few releases at a time. Oxygenate fully however you need to if you feel dizzy at all.

  1. You always seem to have the perfect solution for what has been ailing me. I have been working hard at opening my shoulders in yoga and I have been doing a lot of 15-mile hikes with sticks. I thought I should be breathing much more easily but it has been the reverse. As I watched your video and pressed in on the scalene muscles, I realized that they are completely contracted [i.e. they hurt like h***]. I am going to spend some time today doing pressure point work on those scalene muscles. 
    Thank you so much Dr. Steve!!!!! —-Jackie Levy, Los Angeles

    • Yes, they can be very tender. Be gentle with them. They respond very nicely to easy work. Be sure to remember to make space at the base of your skull during the release to keep the neck retracted. Just get tall!

  2. This time I’m confused! MY hands don’t go up when I inhale, nor do they descend when I exhale. No movement except below the chest. What am I doing wrong?

    • The upward movement can be subtle unless you are a full out chest breather where your whole chest moves up and down.

      the upper ribs should sort of “roll back” at the end of a deep inhale.

      The more important piece is to get a full exhale. Your upper chest muscles might be restricting this rib descent. Go ahead and gently guide them downward as you exhale to mobilize them then you should start feeling them fall more easily.

  3. Great Stuff Steve! I feel more grounded already. Have your experimented at all with strapping techniques for releasing chest tension? Essentially, you just place a strap firmly around a patient’s chest and they breath into it, for 1 breath, then you release it. I’ve had pretty profound results using this method. It is taught by Michael White, on the Optimal Breathing website.

    • I forgot to mention, but obviously move the strap around to different levels depending on what gives the most release for the person.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Thank you so much for this. With the intense pain I felt when doing this exercise I think there might be a clue about the relationship between my allergies and back/chest pain. I can't breathe out of my nose most of the time and when I do try to (at night), I'm often pulling for air through a narrowed passageway. All these muscles of the neck and clavicle area seem to be involved in that (because they feel sore in the mornings). My shoulders roll forward significantly and I have never been able to get them to go back. I also have frequent sprains in my spine leading to a pattern in which sometimes an xray will reveal scoliosis and sometimes it won't. Doctors have mostly attributed this to "ligament laxity" given my former life as a ballet dancer. I think maybe if I could release this area between the collarbone and the ribs it would help a lot with both issues. I'll keep working with this video but if you have any thoughts I'd love to hear them!

    all best

    • Make sure you incorporate "Foam Angels" that you get in the free exercise series when you subscribe to the blog at the top!

      That should help with the rolled forward shoulders.

  5. Hi Dr. Steve,
    I liked this one a lot.
    I have a very tence right shoulder from a motor acsident, and working a lot to try to make it better.
    less tenced and more flexible.

    this is a nice extra awareness exersice, thanks a lot.

  6. Thank you so much! This is my problem area. You are always so generous with your knowledge. I truly appreciate all you teach. May God continue to bless you with the talents you have. :)

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