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I recently read a helpful article in the Huffington Post by Dr. Vijay Vad in which he talks about deep breathing as a way to help relieve arthritis joint pain. Following are excerpts from what he has to say and my response.
“It always comes as a surprise to my patients when I prescribe a painkiller for their arthritis joint pain that doesn’t require a written prescription and not even a trip to the pharmacy. I tell them to breathe.”
“While it’s become fashionable to tell friends and colleagues “breathe!” —- “there’s some serious science behind the reason that breathing correctly can reduce pain.”
“Most of the time, we take short, shallow “rabbit” breaths into the upper part of the lungs. This kind of breathing activates the sympathetic stress receptors and is designed to help us function in an emergency.”
“But another activator of the stress receptors is chronic pain in your knee, your toe, your hand, your back.”
“When we take shallow breaths and activate those stress receptors, we are triggering an increase in heart rate, which constricts the blood vessels so that circulation becomes more efficient — and heightens our blood pressure. This is the classic “fight or flight” syndrome, an evolutionary survival mechanism designed to get us through a crisis.” But “it (shallow breathing) doesn’t make sense when your pain level is ratcheted up. In fact, it just makes your life worse.”
“What does this have to do with reducing pain? Your goal in managing your arthritis pain is to keep it under control. If you focus on and regulate your breathing, it shifts the mind’s attention away from your pain and your body’s natural response to pain!
Proper breathing in a slow, controlled rhythm is the fastest pain reliever you can use. Your goal is to relax — the opposite of what the pain response is. It is normal to tense up when in pain. By activating the relaxation response you are, in fact, reducing your pain.
Here’s how to do some deep breathing for instant relief:
Slow your breathing down as much as possible and take full, deep breaths. Try to inhale deeply through your nose and hold your breath in your lungs for a count of three.
Exhale fully by contracting your stomach slightly, then inhale until you feel your stomach expanding somewhat. Continue breathing this way for at least two to three minutes.
By deep breathing, you are delivering extra oxygen to your overstressed muscles, which allows them to relax. And you are also calming your mind and nervous system — which also will relieve your pain.
Using the deep breathing described here, you will also reduce the chronic back pain caused by arthritis or disk issues.”
My Response to Dr. Vad’s Advise On Deep Breathing To Relieve Arthritis Joint Pain
Dr. Vad offers an excellent suggestion that will definitely help sufferers of arthritis joint pain, or any other type of chronic pain. But because deep breathing addresses the symptom – pain – and not the underlying cause of the pain, the duration of the relief will be short.
If you have one of these foot structures, you’ll have bad posture. Your bad posture can cause a forward rotation of your shoulders. Prolapsed (forwardly rotated) shoulders compress your rib cage, which then directly puts compression on your lungs. This prevents them from fully expanding when you inhale.
It’s difficult if not impossible to breathe deeply if your lungs are being compressed by a compressed rib cage.
Even if you receive a treatment that will temporarily bring your shoulders back (such as feldenkrais, yoga or myofascial intervention) without directly treating your abnormal foot structure, the forward rotation of your shoulders will always re-occur (resulting in shallow breathing).
So, yes, practice breathing deeply, and as you do it will temporarily help relieve your arthritis joint pain. But while you are taking in the fresh air, also check out your feet to see if there is a permanent solution to ending your chronic pain.
Reading the Curing Chronic Pain website will give you more information about the abnormal foot structures I discovered that cause many forms of chronic muscle and joint pain and help you determine whether an Initial Phone Consultation with Professor/Dr. Rothbart might be helpful.
For a more complete explanation of the Rothbarts Foot and PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity, read: Abnormal Foot Structures That Cause Chronic Pain.
To find out if you may have one of two common inherited, abnormal foot structures that cause chronic muscle and joint pain, take the Rothbarts Foot Questionnaire.
As you learn more about my innovative therapy, you may find that addressing and effectively treating your foot structure may be the missing link to ending your long time battle with unrelenting muscle and joint pain.
If you have questions about what’s involved in being treated with Rothbart Proprioceptive Therapy by long distance, see our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Page.