Chronic pain is a serious health condition that, like any other long-term health problem, is likely to cause both physical and emotional complications down the road.
If you suffer from chronic pain of any type, you know just how difficult it can be to get ahead of it.
You don’t have to pop a pill every time you feel a twinge. Did you know that certain breathing techniques can actually help to alleviate your discomfort? Let us show you how...
Whether the pain you are experiencing is mild or downright excruciating, if it lasts longer than twelve weeks it is categorized as chronic pain.
While it is unclear what causes chronic pain, there are certainly things that seem to trigger it. When you incur a major injury or illness, have experienced trauma, or have had, or now have a disease, there are certain nerves that send signals to your brain resulting in pain to those areas.
The most common treatment for chronic pain is medication. There is a whole list of medications out there for temporarily masking the pain, including opioids, NSAIDs, and even anti-epileptics.
The problem with drugs is that they come with their own risks. Opioids are highly addictive and long-term use can result in physical dependence. As tolerance builds, so does the need for more and more, making them a dangerous long-term option. NSAIDs can destroy the stomach lining, amongst other problems. And anti-epileptics often “wear out”, leaving the sufferer high and dry.
So, what do you do? Just breathe…
You already do it. Breathing, that is. So, what have you got to lose?
Research has shown that lifestyle changes can be advantageous for combating chronic pain. This might include changing your diet, exercising, getting more sleep, reducing stress and practicing different breathing techniques.
Let’s dig deeper into that last one: breathing techniques.
At some point in life, we have all heard the phrase, “Just take a deep breath and calm down”. This simple piece of advice has been used over and over again for good reason.
Breathing techniques and exercises have been shown to improve health as well as reduce stress and anxiety.
When we “just take a deep breath”, we need to do just that – take a deep breath by using our whole diaphragm to fully inhale and fully exhale we are in fact deep breathing.
So why does it work on chronic pain? It’s multi-faceted.The breathing that comes naturally to most people only uses the surrounding muscles of the diaphragm and does not fill the lungs to its capacity. This can be compounded by taking shallow breaths in response to the pain you’re experiencing.
Taking deep breaths creates more oxygen saturation and gas exchange in the cells responsible for activating a variety of nerves, thus providing a natural “tonic” that keeps these nerves well supplied with proper gases. Even if you are not aware of a problem, a lack of oxygen can make you feel suddenly tense and nervous.
Breathing relaxes muscles that can tense, causing further pain. It also provides what is known as a “distraction strategy”, taking your mind away from focusing on the pain and thus, minimizing its effects.
It also helps to soothe the physical reactions of anxiety, making it less likely that you’ll tense and further increase the pain.
There are countless breathing techniques and exercises that people all around the world have tried and have adapted into their lives. Whether they find it beneficial for relieving stress and anxiety, or for cleansing their lungs and aiding in their respiratory performance, or even for meditation purposes, breathing exercises work!
The name says it all. Breathing with our largest breathing muscle, the diaphragm, produces extraordinary results. This type of breathing, commonly practiced in the yogic community, has shown proven results, even beyond stress and anxiety relief.
It helps balance the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions, such as bladder functions. It also helps with disorders and mental health conditions including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Now that you know the importance of Diaphragmatic Breathing, here is the proper way to perform it. This is an easy method to use almost anywhere, as it can be done sitting or laying down.Watch this quick three-part series on the proper methods for each.
The Wim Hof Method is based on three essential pillars – Cold Therapy, Breathing, and Commitment. Wim Hof has been closely embraced as the new method for many practitioners around the world.
The Wim Hof Method has been proven to provide: more energy, reduced stress levels, and an improved immune response that swiftly deals with pathogens.
Although The Wim Hof Method includes using cold therapy and focus along with breathing, the sole practice of the breathing has been shown to be beneficial. Please remember to always listen to your body and never push it beyond its boundaries, this type of breathing should be done at your own risk and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
This is complex, so check out this page for additional instructions.
For the complete Wim Hof Method and courses go here.
This type of breathing has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine and in yoga. It has been said that alternate nostril breathing creates a union between both sides of the brain and produces exceptional results such as enhancing respiratory functions, activating the nervous system and reducing blood pressure. It also improves attention and is good for your heart, lungs, and head.
Chronic pain can limit your quality of life but it doesn’t have to. While you may not achieve complete relief with any method -- including breathing techniques -- you can improve your overall well-being.
Try adding these breathing techniques to your chronic pain care routine. You’ll be surprised at how these practices can drastically change how you feel and lead to a more balanced, healthier, happier life.