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Slow breathing can beat pain. This strategy worked among women who paced their breathing at half the normal rate – they were able to significantly reduce the pain from heat pulses on their palms. Paced breathing was even effective for women with fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain. But women who were overwhelmed by negative feelings, including sadness and depression, found it less helpful.
Researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in collaboration with investigators from the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University tested two groups of women aged 45 to 65; one group was composed of women earlier diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The women in the other group were healthy controls.
When heat pulses were administered, practicing slowed breathing led to an overall reduction in pain for the women in the control group. And this breathing technique also worked in women with fibromyalgia whose personalities were positive, but not among those whose lacked a positive perspective.
The investigators noted that fibromyalgia patients cultivating a positive attitude might be able to use the controlled breathing to help reduce their pain.