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4 breathing techniques to manage chronic pain

Health experts show us 4  breathing techniques that help to endure chronic pain, relieve muscle tension and overcome stress.

1 Stress and chronic pain

When we suffer or fight pain, our breathing rate undeniably varies. Sudden, sharp pain makes you gasp and hold your breath until it ends with a sigh of relief. But persistent severe pain causes rapid breathing and shortness of breath, which can lead to hyperventilation.

Just as breathing can get out of whack with pain, pain can subside if we take long, slow breaths. (Think of the Lamaze breathing technique for childbirth). According to a study published in 2017 in the journal Pain, pain affects breathing by causing modulations of flow, frequency and volume. However, the researchers observed a decrease in pain when the respiratory rate slowed down.

Doctors and practitioners of therapeutic yoga rely on simple breathing practices, such as mindfulness of inspiration and expiration and progressive slowing of expiration, to decrease pain and anxiety in people with chronic pain.

“The pain may seem eternal, but there is a way to manage it and reduce the effects of stress,” said Dr. Shailla Vaidya, emergency physician, Toronto-certified yoga therapist and holistic doctor for stress resilience. “Nothing worse than having to fight to overcome the pain. We contract and enter a stress feedback loop that only increases pain signals. Breathing exercises are a good way to get out of this grip of stress and redefine new thinking patterns to take control of the situation.

2 Alternate nasal breathing

The rhythmic method of alternate nasal breathing, or nadi shodhana pranayama, is an advanced stress-relieving practice, says Dr. Vaidya. This technique is also used to lower blood pressure and increase heart variability, which is the fluctuation in the timing between heartbeats. The increased variability in heart function is a sign of good health and well-being.

Place your right hand on your nose. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb, and place your ring finger on your left nostril. Exhale from the left nostril, stop briefly, then inhale through the same nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring finger and release your thumb. Exhale through the right nostril. Take a break, then breathe in through that same nostril. Close your right nostril with your thumb and release your ring finger. Repeat this routine for 3 to 5 minutes, ending with an expiration of the left nostril. You can also view the respiratory movements of your left and right nostrils without touching your nose.

A pause between inhaling and exhaling can increase the amount of oxygen in your lungs, but can also cause anxiety, according to Dr. Vaidya. If you are in any sense uncomfortable or anxious, stop exercising immediately. The

3 Cardiac coherence breathing

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Cardiac coherence obtained by breathing is often used in pain research and in hospitals. Inhale for five seconds and exhale within the same time. Repeating this exercise can slow your pace down to six breaths per minute, almost half your usual rate. (An adult’s breathing rate is between 12 and 20 breaths / minute.)

If this rhythm seems awkward, stop counting. For our experts, awareness of breathing and amplification of exhalation only serve to naturally obtain slower and deeper breathing without having to force or control it. This is to prevent any harmful involuntary stress.

4 Bumblebee breath

Bumblebee breath, or bhramari pranayama, is a relaxing sound that can relax and decrease your stress, according to a study published in 2018 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. It also makes it possible to amplify the expiratory flow.

Inhale, then keep your mouth slightly ajar as you exhale to produce a slight buzz. If this sound sounds restful, continue for three to five minutes. You can vary your tone by changing the vowel while exhaling. What matters most with these breathing practices is to understand the long-term effect of each of them on your well-being and pain relief. Take a few minutes after each practice to assess their effect. Start at your own pace to discover the best dynamic for you.