Stop Pain With Deep, Slow Breathing Techniques

Stop Pain With Deep, Slow Breathing Techniques

Your very next breath might bring relief from what ails you.

Just take that breath more slowly. Seems the deep, slow breathing techniques used in Zen meditation and other mindfulness pursuits may help stop pain and aches—and lift your spirits to boot!

Mind Your Billows
When healthy women in a study were exposed to a heat source that was mildly to moderately painful, they reported feeling way less discomfort when they took slow breaths (about half their usual breathing rate) compared with when they breathed normally. They felt not only less discomfort but less stress, too. Researchers think the slow breathing techniques somehow trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to induce calm and stop pain produced by the sympathetic nervous system. (Here's more on how mind-body intervention can help control pain.)

A Dual Approach
A second group of women in the study with fibromyalgia did not appear to benefit from the slower breathing—possibly due to feelings of depression that characterize the condition along with chronic pain. But the researchers think deep breathing techniques might help that group as well if it's combined with counseling and treatment for depression.

Are clogged sinuses making it hard to breathe? Clear your head with help from Dr. Roizen.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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