Breathing slowly can decrease feelings of pain in healthy patients and even fibromyalgia patients who are able to maintain a positive mood, according to a new study in the journal Pain.
However, patients with fibromyalgia and associated negative feelings like sadness or depression are unlikely to experience decreases in pain as a result of slowed breathing, the study added.
In this study, researchers examined two groups of women between the ages of 45 and 65. One group consisted of 27 women who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a muscular pain syndrome that is unknown in origin and characterized by generalized back pain, muscle pain, fatigue and tender areas, while the other group was comprised of 25 healthy controls.
To examine whether breathing rate affected reported feelings of pain, the researchers instructed both groups of women to breathe normally and then reduce their breathing rate by 50 percent while their palms were subjected to moderately painful heat pulses.
After measuring pain intensity and unpleasantness along with mood variation, the researchers noted how slower breathing was associated with reduced pain in the healthy group.
However, this relationship between controlled breathing and decreased pain was not as prevalent for the women with fibromyalgia. While fibromyalgia patients who were able to maintain positive feelings noted less pain with slower breathing, those women who were overwhelmed by negative feelings did not report such improvements.
While these findings reveal the important role that one’s outlook can have on how pain is interpreted, they also confirm how difficult it can be for many fibromyalgia patients to stay or feel positive, especially when considering that depression is a common symptom of this perplexing condition.
Fibromyalgia patients with depression may consider antidepressants, pain management techniques and other treatments to cope with their symptoms while those who do not suffer from depression or other negative feelings may benefit from the positive combination of breathing exercises, meditation and physical exercises offered during yoga.