Research published by the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, has shown that controlled breathing at a slowed rate can significantly reduce feelings of pain. According to a report in “ScienceDaily” reports that “chronic pain sufferers, specifically fibromyalgia (FM) patients also reported less pain whilst breathing slowly unless they were overwhelmed by negative feelings, sadness or depression”.
The report goes on to state that “the findings offer an explanation for prior reports that mindful Zen meditation has beneficial effects on pain and that yogic breathing exercises can reduce feelings of depression. These results also underline the role that a person’s positive or negative attitude can have on their feelings of pain”.
During the research, participants were subjected to moderately painful heat pulses on their palms administered both when they were breathing at their normal rate, and when they reduced their breathing rate by fifty per cent. This revealed an overall reduction in reported pain when the healthy control participants were paced to breathe slowly. Fibromyalgia patients also benefited from slow breathing but only if they were in a positive mood.
The study leader, Dr Arthur Craig, said “this fits with the idea that fibromyalgia patients in general have low positive affect or energy reserve. Those who do have some positive energy left in their “mental battery” can use it to reduce pain by breathing slowly just like health normals”.