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~Deep Breathing for Pain

Here is a post on breathing from our intern. This is a great technique to control pain and stress.   Marnie

We all experience stress at some time in our lives, some of more than others.  There is no avoiding stress, but learning to manage it can help with our health and control of pain.  We've all heard of the fight or flight response... it's our body's way of protecting us from harm and letting us know when danger is ahead.  Health problems can occur when we have too much stress every single day. Constant, day-to-day stress is bad for our heart and also our immune systems.  Unfortunately, it can also lead to anxiety and depression.  The best thing to do is to learn ways to relax, especially in stressful moments.  Ways to do this are progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. 

Deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. With deep breathing, the belly should rise when you inhale.  A lot of us breathe with our chests, instead of our bellies, which increases tension and anxiety.  When we breathe with our upper chest only, the lower part of our lungs don't get fully inflated and the diaphragm doesn't fully go down all the way.  This lack of oxygen to the lower part of the lungs alone can make us feel anxious and short of breath. On the other hand, deep breathing  is where the lungs get fully inflated, the diaphragm goes down far enough and lets the belly rise.  This allows oxygen to reach the lungs and actually slows the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure.

Slow breathing helps you focus on your breathing instead of everyday stressful thoughts. First, learn to breathe:  lie in a quiet place, place a hand on your belly and take in slow deep breath and you should feel your hand rise, then breathe out as slowly as you inhaled.  It can help to listen to the sound of your breath.  Try to disconnect yourself from distracting thoughts.  Once you've mastered this part, then you're ready for the next step:  belly breathing while focusing on images or words that relax you. 

Breath focus helps with other relaxation methods like progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, prayer, and pleasant images.  It's best to have a daily routine of deep breathing, especially right before a stressful event.  Find a quiet place, don't let the breathing be stressful, practice the same time everyday 1-2 times per day, and perform 10-20 minutes each day. 

Melissa Hickman SPT


The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose of suggest treatment for individuals.  Consult your health care provider regarding your specific needs.

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