Just Breathe

Just breathe...

A new study from the April 2018 Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine reports breathing exercises produce "relevant benefits" on pain tolerance thresholds in a group of fibromyalgia (FM) patients. In layman's terms, doctors put pressure on their tender points at the start of the study, measuring how much pressure pain could be tolerated. The patients were split into 2 groups; one group performed the breathing exercises and the other group did not.

At the end of 12 weeks of performing 30 minutes of breathing exercises a day, the exercise group had a better tolerance to pressure testing, indicating a higher pain tolerance. Additionally, a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire was filled out at beginning and end of the study, rating their quality of life. The exercise group reported improvement in "functional capacity to perform daily life, pain and fatigue". They had less upper body pain and more mobility in that area. The authors concluded that breathing exercises produce a "real and effective intervention to consider for FM".

Ready to give a breathing exercise a try? It is low impact, free and can be done wherever you are – on a quiet bench in the park, reclining at the beach or in your favorite happy place. You can do it in the solace of your own home without any expensive equipment. All you may need is a few comfy pillows. In fact, it’s a good exercise to do in the morning before you get out of bed to start your day!

The Relaxing Breath
This technique – also called 4-7-8 to remember how to perform it – puts you in a relaxed state. Perhaps that is why it works to calm down pain, too. Position is not as important as the breathing itself so just get comfortable!

  • Sit with your back against the wall or lie down with a pillow under your knees, head on a pillow.
  • To start, exhale completely through your mouth. It should sound a bit like a whooshing sound.
  • With your mouth closed, inhale quietly through your nose to a count of 4.
  • Hold that breath to a count of 7.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, this time to a count of 8.
  • The 4-7-8 sequence is ONE breath.
  • Inhale again and repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.
  • Take time throughout the day to repeat the 4 breath sessions.

Note: The count of 4-7-8 is important to relaxation, as is doing the 4 breaths. Even if you find it difficult to hold your breath at first, with practice you will find yourself being able to inhale and exhale more deeply with each session.

©TyH Publications (M. Squires). For informational purposes only. Source: J Altern Complement Med 4/18.