Recent finds published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, notably highlighted in pain management discussions, reveal that specific breathing techniques can significantly alleviate physical discomfort and enhance our ability to cope with pain. 


In this article, we will have a closer look at the role of breath in managing pain and introduce six different techniques that will help you alleviate the pain.


But first…

What is the Function of Breathing?

Breathing works because it is a fundamental physiological process that plays a crucial role in maintaining the body's balance and function. 

 

1. Breathing Helps Oxygenating the Body

Breathing is essential to bringing oxygen into the body and regulating the levels of carbon dioxide in the body. 

 

2. Breathing Helps Reducing Anxiety and Stress

Breathing is also intimately connected to the autonomic nervous system. By regulating the breath, individuals can influence the activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, potentially reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

 

3. Breathing Helps Us Control Pain

Pain often comes accompanied by shallow breathing, reflecting the inner stress the body and mind undergo. Conscious breathing emerges as a potent tool for pain control. It can act as a dual remedy by calming the nervous system directly and reducing the emotional burden associated with pain, fostering a more resilient mental state.


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Six Breathing Techniques for Pain Management

Here are six breathing techniques to harness the transformative power of breath in promoting health and managing pain.

1. Conscious Breathing


Implementing conscious breathing involves being fully present and mindful of each breath. This technique is straightforward yet powerful, making it accessible to everyone. By consciously paying attention to the inhalation and exhalation, individuals can initiate a transformation within their body. 


It consists in observing, perceiving, and sensing the movement and the sensations of the breath in our body. We can bring our awareness to the movement of the belly, in and out, to the contact of our clothes with our belly, to the contact of the air with our nostrils or throat, in and out.


This simple act of awareness during breathing can profoundly affect health and overall well-being.

 

2. Pranayama

Rooted in the yogic tradition, Pranayama encompasses various breathing exercises designed to balance our internal biological system, or prana. However, a vast body of research has proven scientifically that pranayama improves mental and physical states as it down-regulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and thus, the sympathetic nervous system. This is the method: 


  1. Inhale to a third of your lungs' capacity, 
  2. Pause for two to three seconds.
  3. Inhale another third 
  4. Pause again
  5. Inhale until the lungs are filled.
  6. Pause
  7. Repeat the pattern on the exhale (exhaling the breath in thirds)

 

3. Intermittent Breath Holding or Conscious Apnea

Intermittent breath holding is a technique that involves consciously pausing the breath at specific intervals. 


While it demands extra focus, the potential rewards are significant. This practice has been shown to enhance psychological functions and response inhibition among healthy individuals. 


By introducing intentional pauses in the breath, practitioners can deepen their connection to breath control and experience additional benefits.

4. Deep Abdominal Breathing 

Deep abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing involves engaging your diaphragm to take deeper breaths with the stomach moving in and out. Those engaged in the practice will feel an expanding or stretching sensation in the stomach rather than solely in their chest and shoulders. Here is how you can practice it:


  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. 
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your navel.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose so your stomach moves out, causing your hand to rise. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  4. Tighten your stomach muscles so that your stomach moves in, causing your hand to lower as you exhale through pursed lips.

5. Paced Respiration

Paced respiration, also known as paced breathing, is a relaxation technique that involves slowing down and deepening the breath to promote a sense of calm and relaxation. 


It can be used to manage various conditions such as hot flashes, anxiety, and other menopausal symptoms. This is how you can make it:

  1. Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4.
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a longer count of 6.
  5. Continue this pattern for 2 to 10 minutes, aiming for 10 breaths per minute.

Practice paced breathing once or twice a day, or as needed to manage symptoms

 

Also Read: How Cold Showers and Deep Breathing Can Reduce Stress – Oxa

 

6. Resonance Breathing

Resonance breathing is a technique that involves breathing at a specific rate to achieve a state of coherence and promote relaxation. This method is designed to balance the autonomic nervous system and increase heart rate variability, which is associated with reduced stress and improved emotional well-being. The Oxa app will help you with resonance breathing as it helps find your unique resonance frequency. 


Conclusion

Breathing, often overlooked in the context of pain management, plays a crucial role in maintaining the body's balance and function. It not only influences pain perception but also alleviates stress, enhances mental health, and contributes to overall vitality. The journey into breath control is a journey into self-discovery and self-care, offering a pathway to a healthier, more balanced life.

 

Also Read: Breathing Exercises for Pain - 6 Techniques and Tips – Oxa



FAQ’s

Q: Why does breathing technique matter if I already lead a healthy lifestyle?

Regardless of other health practices, the way we breathe significantly influences our body weight, lung function, nervous system control, immune response, and overall longevity. Breathing correctly is foundational to overall health and well-being.


Q: Can specific breathing techniques really impact mental health and stress levels?

Breathing can reset the basic mechanics of the brain, alleviate symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and promote mindfulness and focus. It presents scientific evidence that demonstrates the transformative power of breathwork on mental well-being.


Q: Can breathing techniques help with physical pain and discomfort?

Yes, breathing techniques can alleviate physical discomfort and manage pain, suggesting that these practices can provide conscious control over symptoms such as panic and discomfort.

Ready to begin?

Get the Oxa Sensor and your choice of garment - lounge-wear shirt, bra, or adjustable chest strap. Your purchase includes access to the Oxa app which gives personalized data summaries and insights, as well as access to breathing exercises to teach you how to harness the power of your own breath.