The importance of proper breathing in managing chronic pain

Better breathing to manage pain.

Living with chronic pain can be very debilitating. Chronic pain is draining both physically and mentally. Breathing is essential to life, something we do automatically without even thinking. Unfortunately many people suffering from chronic pain do not breathe correctly leading to an increase in pain. Michigan State University Extension offers several programs that can provide tactics for seniors to better manage their pain and other chronic conditions.

Often when people are in pain, they hold their breath for short periods of time unintentionally. This is a common response to pain, the idea of “hold your breath to get through the pain.” The shallow disordered breathing pattern that follows this type of breathing often increases the level of pain as well as worsening some of the symptoms of the chronic disease causing the pain.

Breathing is important because it affects your whole body. Breathing properly oxygenates the body, fueling energy production, improves focus and concentration, eliminates toxins, and increases feelings of calmness and relaxation. This relaxation leads to a decrease in the feelings of pain.

Better breathing takes practice. You need to move from shallow chest breathing to deep abdominal breathing. In order to do this start by lying down on your back with your knees bent. Place your hand lightly on your abdomen just above your naval. Take a few normal breaths. Now, inhale slowly through your nose. Feel your abdomen expand as you use your diaphragm fully to breathe. Exhale slowly through your mouth, pursing your lips. Repeat this several times.

Practice this exercise several times a day for at least five minutes a time. You have probably been breathing improperly for a long time, so it will take practice to retrain your body to breathe properly without you thinking about it. Some exercise techniques such as yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi stress proper breathing techniques and can be helpful in training your body to breathe properly. Visit the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to learn more about better breathing.

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