We all have past and present pain. Sometimes it is mild while other times, it’s quite intense. Past injuries can come up if you’re under stress or aren’t taking care of yourself. Inflammation in the body can make that pain become more intense. Breathing is actually an excellent pain management strategy for a variety of reasons. How you breathe defines how your body works with pain. You can use specific breathing patterns to alleviate it. If you look at women giving birth, one of the most valuable ways to prepare for labor is learning how to breathe through it. When you improve your breathing habits, you can improve pain management. Through conscious breath, you can ease the acute and chronic pain on demand.
Stress, Tension,and Pain
Stress can lead to pain often so it’s important that you relax the mind to avoid any stress. The mind has total control over what your body feels so it’s important to relax it when necessary. It can cause the body to go into fight/flight response which is likely to increase your pain. Your fight/flight response system will initiate physiological changes in the body in cases of emergency. The body does not understand that the onset could be something as simple as a social situation you’re uncomfortable in. Muscles become tense, adrenaline is released, and you experience increased inflammation. All of these things can increase whatever pain you’re experiencing once it’s subsided.
Fear causes us to become tense and we hold our breath. When the moment of perceived danger is gone, we relax and we exhale. The expression used during childbirth is the “fear-tension-pain” cycle. Women will often become worried about giving birth so they get tense. The tension leads to pain and more tension and pain occur. The natural response to fear is the changing of our breathing pattern. This changes our reflexes and we increase pain in the system. We have the power to increase or decrease pain just through the use of our breath. Tension breeds pain. Conscious breathing relaxes the body and gets rid of the pain.
Here is some important step with breathing that will help alleviate pain that occurs especially through stress:
Awareness of the Breath
To breathe properly, you will need to become aware of your breath. It’s not possible to make a change if you’re not first aware. When you experience pain, think about what is going on with your breath. Let it help you go through the moment of acute pain. If you breathe fast or hold your breath, it can make the pain worse. If you’re able to relax and breathe deeply for a few cycles, you can calm down your nervous system and reduce pain.
Deepening of the Breath
This is something that takes practice. Try to deepen your breath consciously every day. When you deepen your breath and let it go down to your belly, there are many physiological benefits. When it comes to the sympathetic/parasympathetic balance, you give this system a message that things are okay and there’s no need to be on guard. When the nervous system knows this, it sends all sort of messages to other systems in the body and positive change occurs. You will find that when you breathe deeply, you will feel instantly better. The mind and body become used to this way of dealing with pain and you feel less stressed out and demoralized when it does occur.
Belly breathing is a great way to alleviate pain. When we are stressed or in pain, we will take shallow breaths that only go into our chest. By expanding your belly on purpose at every inhalation, you give your body a calming effect.
How to do Belly Breathing:
- You can be sitting or lying, whatever is comfortable for you.
- Put a hand on your belly and one on your chest.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and direct the breath all the way down to the belly. Your belly should push your hand out.
- Hold this for a few seconds.
- Exhale out of your mouth and let all the air go. Your hand can even slightly push the belly inward for effect.
- Repeat this up to 10 times to reduce pain.
Long Drawn-out Exhalations
When you inhale, this activates the sympathetic system. When you exhale, it activates the parasympathetic system. When you do long, intentional exhalations, you help your body to rest and digest. It turns off all the alarms in your brain that could cause you pain.
The short-term gain for practicing simple breathing exercises is that you calm the nervous system down. This helps lessen any pain you are experiencing. For the long-term, you bring in healthy breathing patterns which makes your brain less likely to tell the body there’s cause for alarm. Whatever pain you’re experiencing can be reduced through breath work.