Many massage therapists are familiar with breath work and yogic breathing; in fact, breath work is a type of health-care modality of its own. New research performed by a scientist at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has shown that controlled breathing at a slowed rate can significantly reduce feelings of pain.

According to a press release, chronic pain sufferers, specifically fibromyalgia patients, also reported less pain while breathing slowly, unless they were overwhelmed by negative feelings, sadness or depression.

The findings offer an explanation for prior reports that mindful Zen meditation has beneficial effects on pain and that yogic breathing exercises can reduce feelings of depression. These results also underline the role that a person’s positive or negative attitude can have on their feelings of pain.

The researchers analyzed the participants’ ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness and found an overall reduction in reported pain when the healthy control participants were paced to breathe slowly. However, fibromyalgia patients benefited from slow breathing only if they reported positive affect.

Other studies have shown that depression is a hallmark of fibromyalgia and that the connection between pain and emotion is particularly evident in people diagnosed with the fibromyalgia syndrome.

The research was published recently PAIN, the refereed journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

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