How can I use my breathing to relieve pain?

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

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

When healthy women in a recent 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 somehow triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to induce calm and counter the painful feelings produced by the sympathetic nervous system.

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

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.