Slow breathing reduces pain

Controlled breathing at a slowed rate can significantly reduce feelings of pain, a new research says.

The research, performed by a scientist at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in collaboration with investigators in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, has been published in ‘PAIN.’

The study, lead by Arthur (Bud) Craig, PhD, at Barrow, involved two groups of women aged 45 to 65. One group was composed of women previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the other group was “healthy controls.”

In the study, researchers found that chronic pain sufferers, specifically fibromyalgia (FM) patients, reported less pain while breathing slowly, unless they were overwhelmed by negative feelings, sadness or depression.

During the trial, participants were subjected to moderately painful heat pulses on their palms. The heat pulses were administered while they were breathing at normal rates and when participants reduced their breathing rates by 50 per cent.

After each heat pulse, participants were asked to report their feelings three ways: how strong the pain was (pain intensity), how uncomfortable it was (pain unpleasantness) and how their mood varied (affect).

The researchers analyzed the participants’ ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness and found an overall reduction in reported pain when the healthy control participants were paced to breathe slowly.

However, fibromyalgia patients benefited from slow breathing only if they reported positive affect.

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