Improve Your Life with
Deep Breathing for Fibromyalgia
by Donna Grant
The title of this post sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?
As unconscious breathers, we don’t have to think about breathing we just do it.
It’s something we take for granted and we often don’t think about the impact that breathing can have on our bodies.
Interestingly, when you have fibromyalgia or chronic pain, consciously thinking about how you breath might actually help you to improve your life with chronic illness.
I’ll hold my hands up and say that I am guilty of not breathing correctly at times.
You might be thinking to yourself, “how is that even possible?”
Well, my biological make-up actually makes it very easy for me to breathe incorrectly. My sternum bone is a bit of an odd shape. It dips inwards, which means it has displaced my heart slightly and I am positive this causes me to breathe shallowly. Before I began getting alternative therapies, such as Bowen and reflexology, I actually couldn’t breathe deeply without feeling a sharp pain in my chest. Having alternative therapies has helped me tremendously with my breathing.
I can now breathe freely and deeply without experiencing any pain. Even without this biological defect, many people who suffer from chronic illness do not breathe properly because of their pain.
To think about how breathing affects our pain levels, we have to first think about its role. Breathing, put simply, is how we supply our bodies with oxygen and it is also one way we expel toxins from the body.
Oxygen is essential to life and it is an element that enables our bodies to work and perform optimally. It fuels energy production, helps with brain function and breathing even helps us to feel calm and relaxed. Every cell in our body requires oxygen to survive. As we all know, cutting off or limiting this supply can have devastating consequences.
So how does this tie into chronic pain?
Deep breathing and pain
I have noticed that my pain is worse when I am breathing shallowly.
It makes sense when you think about it. Although we are providing the cells in our bodies with enough oxygen to function, we are not supplying them with the level they need to perform their function optimally. They are struggling and it causes us to feel pain.
When you are in pain, it's only natural to unconsciously hold your breath for short periods of time. via @febstarsblog Click To Tweet
The difficult aspect is that we end up in a catch-22 situation. When you are in pain, it’s only natural to unconsciously hold your breath for short periods of time.
Holding our breath is a coping mechanism we use to help us battle through the pain.
Posture and pain
Additionally, our posture changes. We hunch inwards when we are struggling with pain. This poor posture not only tenses up our muscles but it also further restricts our ability to breathe properly, resulting in shallow breathing. Although changing our behavior like this might be comforting, it also causes an increase in our pain. It is important to be aware of these coping mechanisms so you can break out of this pain cycle and consciously do something help yourself.
I have noticed that my pain is worse when I am breathing shallowly. via @febstarsblog Click To Tweet
Deep breathing to reduce pain
Through experimenting with meditation and relaxation techniques, I have noticed that if I take time out to relax and focus on deep breathing, even if it is just for 10 minutes, I feel a reduction in my pain. It’s actually really powerful and the key is to breath deeply and to breathe correctly. When you think of breathing, you automatically think of the chest. I want to change that perception. It takes practice to learn to breathe correctly but it’s a lesson worth doing if you want to improve your life with chronic pain. Here’s an exercise to help you achieve this:
First, lie flat on your back with your knees bent. You can place a pillow under your head and lower back if you need these to feel comfortable. I choose to lie on the sofa or my bed as this is the most comfortable for me. Focus on your breathing. Pay close attention to which part of your body rises and falls.
Is it your chest? If so we need to work on your breathing.
If it is your abdomen that does most of the work, congratulations you breathe correctly.
Either way the following deep breathing exercise is sure to help you when you are in pain.
- Set aside 10 minutes of your time (doing this more often or any time you are struggling with your pain will be beneficial but 10 minutes is a good place to start).
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent as above.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Let all other thoughts fall out of your mind. Placing your hands just above your belly button will help you to feel how you are breathing.
- Take a slow, deep breath in and concentrate on pushing your hands up with your abdomen. Let you abdomen expand before your chest. Your chest should only rise slightly, let your abdomen do all the work.
- Without holding your breath, slowly breathe out through your mouth.
- Continue deep breathing for at least 10 minutes.
This deep breathing exercise is great for relaxing your body and mind and will help to reduce your pain. Aim to slowly build up so that both your breath in and your exhale take at least 10 seconds each. This might be tough to start with; do not force yourself, you will get there gradually with practice. If you feel any pain, reduce the duration of your breath.
I hope this technique helps with your pain as much as it helps me. It is also a great way of de-stressing and stress should be considered an enemy when you have chronic illness. It definitely pays to be aware of your breathing when you are in pain. Taking control and breaking out of the pain cycle can help you to live better with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions. I would love to hear if the breathing exercise helped you in the comments below.
This has been a guest post, written by Donna Grant, blogger at February Stars