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December 2022
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Just Breathe

Study: Deep Breaths Can Relieve Pain

Something as simple as deep breaths can relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia, according to researchers.

If there’s anything that I do a lot more of now than I did when I was younger it’s breathe.  Of course we ALL breathe, but what I mean by “breathing” is taking a few moments out of my day to take a deep, deep breath in, and a deep, deep breath out.


Deep breaths are a real catharsis for me.  I’ll go over one of my favorite deep breaths in a moment, but before I do that, did you know that deep breaths can actually help relieve pain?

According to a study recently published in the eponymous journal Pain, people suffering from fibromyalgia experienced less pain when they were instructed to breathe in slow, controlled patterns.

The studied worked like this.  Half of the participants were dubbed “healthy controls,” which basically means that they didn’t have fibromyalgia symptoms.  Symptoms of fibromyalgia, to be really general, are feeling pangs of pain all over your body incessantly.  The other half of the participants had all been previously diagnosed as fibromyalgia sufferers.

To mimic the effects of fibromyalgia, researchers had the participants place their hands over heat sensors.  These heat sensors emitted slightly painful bursts of heat, and the participants were to gauge their pain based on three criteria:  intensity, uncomfortability, and how the pain changed their mood, if at all.

Overall, the researchers found that both fibromyalgia sufferers and the healthy controls experienced less pain when they were instructed to breathe in slow, controlled ways.

That wasn’t a universal finding, however.  A lot of people who had fibromyalgia had depression as well (a common function of fibromyalgia).  If that was the case, the slow breathing didn’t have much of an impact one way or the other.

For everyone else, though, slow breathing actually lessened the severity of physical pain.

Fibromyalgia is a fairly common condition in America, as approximately 1 in every 50 adults has an at least mild form of it.  It’s much more common among women than men (about seven times more common), as 80 to 90 percent of fibromyalgia sufferers are female.

There are, of course, many different kinds of breathing techniques to slow down and relax.  One of my favorites uses your nose to breathe air in and out.  It goes like this:

  • Close your right nostril with one finger
  • Breathe in deeply through your left nostril
  • Hold for a second
  • Now, open your right nostril and close the left nostril (the nostril you just breathed in from)
  • Breathe out through the right nostril
  • Keeping your finger on your left nostril, breathe in through your right nostril
  • Hold for a second
  • Now open your left nostril and close the right nostril (the nostril you just breathed in from)
  • Breathe out through the left nostril
  • Repeat

The slower and longer you breathe in and out, the better.

This breathing technique may not decrease your feelings of physical pain, but it will increase your feelings of contentment and satisfaction—two things we could all use a little more of.


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