The Healing Power of Breath: Exploring Deep Breathing Exercises for Pain Management   May 31st, 2024


In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to overlook the simple yet profound act of breathing. However, for centuries, cultures around the world have recognized the therapeutic benefits of deep breathing exercises. In this blog post, we delve into the realm of breathwork and its remarkable potential in managing pain, offering a holistic approach to well-being that harnesses the power of the breath.

Understanding Pain

Pain is a universal experience, manifesting in various forms and intensities. Whether it's acute or chronic, physical or emotional, pain can significantly impact our quality of life. Conventional approaches often rely on medication or medical interventions, but there exists a complementary avenue that taps into the body's innate capacity for healing: deep breathing exercises.

The Science Behind Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are more than just a way to relax; they are deeply rooted in the physiology of our bodies. By gaining a better understanding of how breathing techniques affect the autonomic nervous system, we can fully appreciate their impact on our well-being.

The autonomic nervous system, which regulates our heart, digestion, and other automatic processes, has two main components: the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Breathing exercises have the power to modulate these systems and bring our bodies into different states.

Deep slow breaths activate the parasympathetic nervous system, known as our 'rest and digest' system. When this system is activated, our heart rate slows down, our muscles relax, and our digestion improves. This leads to a sense of calm and well-being.

How to Do

  1. Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, as you would for a regular deep breathing exercise.
  2. Inhale Slowly and Deeply: Begin by inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand as you breathe in. Aim to fill your lungs completely, but don't force it. Count the duration of your inhale, perhaps to a count of four or five, whatever feels comfortable for you.
  3. Hold Your Breath: After you've inhaled fully, hold your breath briefly for a count of one or two. Again, don't strain yourself. Just pause for a moment.
  4. Exhale Slowly and Prolonged: Now, begin to exhale slowly through your mouth. As you exhale, extend the duration of your breath, making it longer than your inhale. You might count to six, seven, or even eight as you exhale. The key is to make the exhale slower and more prolonged than the inhale.
  5. Repeat the Process: Continue this pattern of slow, deep inhales followed by even slower, prolonged exhales. Focus on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of your body, and try to maintain a relaxed pace.
  6. Notice Sensations: Pay attention to how your body and mind respond to the prolonged exhale. You may notice a deeper sense of relaxation or a greater release of tension compared to standard deep breathing.
  7. Practice Regularly: Like any deep breathing exercise, practice is key to mastering this technique. Try to incorporate it into your daily routine, especially during times of stress or when you need to calm your mind.


Scientific research discovered that paced breathing (PB) can lessen pain, especially when done at a slower rate of 6 breaths per minute with a longer exhale. The reduction in pain during instructed breathing likely involves factors like attention, expectations, stress relief, and emotional control rather than cardiovascular changes. Future research should explore these psychological mechanisms further. Additionally, more extensive studies with diverse pain types, larger participant pools to analyze sex differences, and examination in patient groups are needed to validate and extend these findings.

Tobbackx Yannick

Owner of Health PracticeDe Zuil, Westerlo Belgium (

Member of Pain in Motion

2024Pain in Motion

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