Hey everyone! Are you tired of dealing with chronic pain in your back, knees, or from conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia? Are you seeking natural ways to manage your pain without relying solely on medications? If so, this post is for you! I want to share some valuable information about the connection between breathing exercises and pain management.
Before we dive in, let me emphasize that this post is for educational purposes only, and it’s crucial to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your medication routine..
Types of Pain
Let’s start by understanding pain in two categories: adaptive pain and maladaptive pain. Adaptive pain, although uncomfortable, serves a purpose to protect us from harm. It’s the body’s way of alerting us to negative stimuli in our environment. On the other hand, maladaptive pain is when pain becomes disconnected from its original cause and persists longer than necessary. It’s like a fire alarm going off in your body without an actual fire. Breathing exercises have shown tremendous effectiveness in managing chronic maladaptive pain, such as joint pain, autoimmune conditions, and fibromyalgia.
Although there is an extensive body of research linking breathing exercises to pain management, it’s not widely known. One reason is the challenge of patient compliance. Incorporating regular exercise or improving dietary habits can already be difficult for many individuals, so asking them to adopt a daily breathing exercise routine can be a further hurdle.
Another reason is the lack of clarity regarding the mechanisms behind how breathing exercises work. While there are several theories, such as increased heart rate variability, vagus nerve stimulation through diaphragmatic breathing, reduced resting heart rate, and lower cortisol levels, the exact mechanisms are still being explored.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the mechanisms, the positive outcomes of breathing exercises in pain management cannot be denied. Numerous studies have focused on joint pain, fibromyalgia, and pain tolerance tests, consistently showing promising results. However, it’s important to note that breathing exercises might not be as effective for acute pain caused by sudden injuries or emergencies. In those cases, they can still be helpful in managing mood but might not provide significant pain relief.
When it comes to the specific breathing techniques used in these studies, slow, deep breathing with an extended exhale or a combination of slow breathing and reduced breathing rate are commonly employed. These exercises emphasize diaphragmatic engagement and a slower respiration rate.
Now, let’s try a simple breathing exercise known as “4×8 I feel great” breathing:
- Find a comfortable seated position with your feet planted on the floor, hands resting on your knees, and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes.
- Inhale through both nostrils to the count of four.
- Exhale slowly through both nostrils to the count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle of inhalation and exhalation for several rounds, maintaining the same timing and rhythm.
- Remember to use the ocean breath technique, creating an “ah ha” sound in the back of your throat while breathing through your nose.
- Be mindful of regulating your exhale to half the speed of your inhale, ensuring a controlled and extended release of breath.
Please note that this breathing exercise may induce drowsiness, so it’s important to avoid practicing it while driving or operating machinery. Feel free to incorporate this exercise into your daily routine, especially before bedtime. If you find it helpful, you can repeat it multiple times throughout the day.
Breathing exercises are not a cure-all solution, and they may not provide the same level of pain relief as opioid drugs. However, with regular practice and consistency, they can significantly reduce or manage chronic pain over time. Remember to listen to your body and consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice.
If you’re interested in more science-based yoga breathing, check this great book on amazon about “Power of Breathing Exercises”.
Wishing you a breath-filled journey toward pain relief and improved well-being!