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How Deep Breathing Can Relieve Chronic Pain Symptoms

Woman in meditation doing deep breathing

Many people who are suffering from chronic pain tend to experience higher levels of stress hormones, higher muscle tension, higher blood pressure, and a slew of other problems. These problems are often cyclical, meaning it can be challenging for someone with chronic pain to find ways to relax, quiet the mind, and even experience pain relief. Deep breathing is a form of purposeful relaxation that calms the mind and has many benefits for those with chronic pain. 

How Does Deep Breathing Provide Pain Relief? 

Deep breathing is a relaxation technique often prescribed by physicians and holistic doctors. The exercise works by activating the parasympathetic system, the network of nerves that helps relax the body after long periods of stress. It’s commonly referred to as diaphragmatic breathing as it works with the abdominal muscles, lungs, nose, and throat to engage the entire body in breathing. 

Because of this, it’s considered an excellent exercise for calming the mind and providing the body with pain relief. People affected with chronic pain often constantly engage with the parasympathetic system, and pain elevates blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing pace. This causes more stress occurs, which can often leave many people with chronic pain feeling their pain more deeply and constantly, unable to counteract that pain. 

However, with deep breathing exercises, pain can be reduced by reintroducing the brain to a pleasure response. It alleviates a highly anxious state by calming the nervous system and reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and pain sensation.

If you want to try deep breathing exercises for yourself, then here’s a step-by-step guide to follow: 

  • Start the exercise in a comfortable position, either sitting or lying on your back.
  • Focus your attention on your breath, visualizing the rate at which you’re breathing.
  • Inhale for about three to five seconds
  • Exhale for three to five seconds, removing all breath from the lungs.
  • Continue to fill your lungs with each inhale. Each time you breathe in, you should notice your belly expand. 
  • With each exhale, the belly should be moved as close to the spine as your empty your lungs.
  • Through each repetition, try to focus your attention on an area of your body that feels painful or tense. During each exhale, focus on releasing that tension over time. 

Does Deep Breathing Cure Chronic Pain? 

This simple exercise can be practiced for about five to 15 minutes a day to help ease the pain. Deep breathing can be used to help unlearn the pain response and bring out better control over chronic pain. It’s about reenergizing the brain, controlling the nerves and motor functions to extinguish pain from the body over time. While it’s not a single cure-all for pain, it can be used as part of a chronic pain treatment plan alongside other therapies and medications. For more information about how to best manage your chronic pain, make sure to speak with your pain specialists and schedule an appointment. 

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