Friday, May 24, 2013

Breathing for Pain Management

As a person who experiences a lot of pain, I'm always looking for ways to reduce or eliminate the experience. One method I was taught when I was certified to teach an Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program was deep breathing.

It's a simple, free, and all-natural technique. It goes like this:
  1. Stand, sit up tall, or lie down. Have your arms relaxed, either to your side or in your lap.
  2. Place your hands right below your bellybutton.
  3. Inhale as deeply as you can through your nose. When you think you've filled it up as far as it can go, try to take in a little more air (most people hardly use their entire lung function). Expand your stomach and your chest as much as possible. Your hands should move outwards.
  4. English: Animation of a diaphragm exhaling and...
    English: Animation of a diaphragm exhaling and inhaling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  5. Slowly exhale through relaxed, but pursed lips. It should make a noise. Try and exhale for as long as possible. You should feel your shoulders relax as you exhale.

My Experience With Deep Breathing For Pain Management

My inspiration for this post came from excruciating pain related to my unofficial diagnosis of endometriosis. I have been getting unbearable cramps from unavoidable bodily functions like peeing. (I know, I'm sorry. A bit TMI.) It's so painful that it makes me cry and moan and curl up waiting for the pain to kill me. It's not an easy task to make me cry, but this makes short work of me in mere seconds.

It usually takes a few seconds for my brain to start working after the initial shock from the intense pain. But once I do I start my pain-reducing routine. I focus on my breathing, slowing it down and taking deep breaths. I slowly exhale, even though my body wants to start hyperventilating. I've noticed by practicing my deep breathing that pain pulses in rhythm with the rate of breathing. When you breathe out and relax your muscles, the pain eases. 

My dearest friend S helped me with this, too. She told me once that learning to breathe through the pain was one of the best things she's learned. Which is what this deep breathing does. It helps you breathe through the pain so you aren't immobilized by it. And you learn to relax. Tension is pain's most evil ally.

Now it is your turn to try. The next time you feel pain, inhale deeply from your nose and fill your stomach and your chest with air. Then, slowly exhale through your mouth, drawing it out for as long as possible. Remember to relax and focus on your breathing. Then come back and let me know how it worked for you. I'd like to make sure that S and I are not the only ones who have used this with any form of success.

How do you manage your pain?

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