Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Study Spotlight: Effect of Deep and Slow Breathing on Pain Perception

The idea of the mind and the 'self' being able to control the reaction of the body has been a long held idea in many disciplines.  Recently it has become more accepted as something that needs to be integrated into general healthy living along with utilizing it for athletic performance.  The idea that the mind can control so much when it comes to the body's response to pain is key in this concept and this study takes a one way to help utilize it.

What They Did:

Subjects were placed in one of two treatment groups.  Attentive deep and slow breathing and relaxation deep and slow breathing.  These groups were trained in their breathing techniques.  For measurable outcomes skin conductance levels (indicating sympathetic tone) were measures,  thermal detection and pain threshold for cold and hot stimuli and profile of mood states were examined before and after the breathing sessions.

What They Found:
Both breathing groups appeared to have similar reductions when it came to mood states and negative feelings.  Pain thresholds increased for the relaxed ground but no significant changes were seen for the attentive group.  Mean skin conductance levels indicating sympathetic activity decreased in the relaxed group but not with the attentive deep and slow breathing group.

What It All Means:
I think there are a couple major parts to the results of this study.  The first being that we, as humans, have the capacity to control intensities in pain with our breath.  This leads to the idea that you can control so much of your body and what it's reaction is to different stimuli but utilizing your mind and controlling your nervous system.  If you haven't heard of Wim Hof I recommend finding something on him to listen to as he is one of the masters of this concept.   Just think (get it?) that you could help control your pain, potentially your healing (at least your reaction to it) and where that could take you in performance or just in daily life.

The second part of these results that I found extremely interesting was the difference being attentive vs relaxed when you are doing the deep slow breathing.  As someone who doesn't like to turn their mind off and hasn't even tried meditating this is an area I think that could be especially important with the type of fast passed world we live in.  Not only do you have to slow down and break deep you have to relax in the process in order to maximize efficiency.  

So the bottom line is: relax, take a deep and slow breath and let your body respond to that.

Source: Busch, Volker. The Effect of Deep and Slow Breathing on Pain Perception, Autonomic Activity, and Mood Processing-An Experimental Study. Psychology, Psychiatry and Brain Neuroscience Section.

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