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Deep Breathing Exercises in Pain Management

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Deep breathing exercises or diaphragmatic exercises can reduce the stress and inflammation of the body, thereby reducing the pain. Read to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nagaraj

Published At December 26, 2023
Reviewed AtDecember 26, 2023


Stress can cause a lot of changes in the body, like inflammation. One big problem it can lead to is chronic pain, which can be tough to deal with. Stress also makes pain feel even worse.

A simple way to fight back is deep breathing, and many people use it to calm down and feel better. Practicing deep breathing helps the body relax, which can reduce inflammation and ease pain.

Deep breathing is especially helpful when dealing with chronic pain or when pain gets worse suddenly. When a person is stressed or taking quick, shallow breaths, it can make pain, anxiety, and stress levels go up. So, learning how to breathe deeply can be a big help.

How Breathing Exercises Can Reduce Chronic Pain?

Breathing exercises, also called deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, can help lower stress and reduce pain.

  • Calm the Body: Deep breathing sends a message to the brain to relax and stay calm. This can help reduce stress and lower the heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Use the Right Muscles: When doing deep breathing, use the main breathing muscle called the diaphragm. This is better than taking quick, shallow breaths from the chest, which use smaller, less effective muscles.

  • The Deep Breathing Process: Deep breathing is a simple and effective way to reduce stress, calm the body, and manage pain. It is a powerful tool that can be used to feel better and more relaxed. To practice deep breathing, follow these steps:

    • Breathe in slowly through the nose. Feel the belly expand as the lungs fill with air.

    • Hold the breath for a few seconds.

    • Now, exhale slowly through the mouth. And notice the belly getting smaller.

    • It is important to be in a comfortable and safe place. Sit or lie down in a position that feels relaxed.

    • While doing deep breathing, concentrate on the breath and nothing else. Feel the air going in and out of the body.

What Are the Different Breathing Exercises to Manage Pain?

Various deep breathing techniques can help relieve chronic pain. Some of them are,

Belly Breathing:

Belly breathing is a simple and great way to start if new to breathing exercises. It is especially helpful for folks who have not tried these exercises before. Starting with this basic technique helps to relax and relieve stress.

  • Sit Comfortable: Find a comfortable spot to sit in and relax.

  • Hands-on Belly: Place one hand just below the ribs on the belly and the other hand on the chest.

  • Take a Deep Breath: Inhale slowly through the nose. As the person breathes in, let the belly push the hand out, but the chest should stay still during this step.

  • Exhale Slowly: Breathe out through pursed lips, like whistling. As continue to do this, feel the hand on the belly go in while pushing all the air out.

  • Repeat: Do this kind of breathing for 3 to 10 breaths. Take time with each breath.

This is one of the easiest breathing exercises, and once get familiarised with belly breathing, can explore more advanced techniques. It is a great way to start the journey to feeling more relaxed and less stressed.

4-7-8 Breathing:

It is an effective breathing exercise that focuses on belly breathing and can be done while sitting or lying down. It is a simple technique to help relax.

  • Get in Position: Start by placing one hand on the belly and the other on the chest, similar to what did in the belly breathing exercise.

  • Take a Deep Breath: Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose, counting silently to four as breathe in. Feel the belly rise while doing this.

  • Hold the Breath: Now, hold the breath for a silent count of seven.

  • Exhale Slowly: Release the breath slowly and completely through the mouth, counting silently from one to eight. Try to get rid of all the air in the lungs by the time reach the count of 8.

  • Repeat: Do these steps for three to seven rounds or until the person starts to feel calm and relaxed.

This exercise is a great way to quickly calm the mind and reduce stress.

Box, Square, or Foursquare Breathing:

Box breathing is similar to the 4-7-8 breathing technique, but it adds a pause after exhalation.

  • Inhale Slowly: Start by inhaling slowly and steadily through the nose, counting silently to four while breathing in.

  • Hold the Breath: After inhaling, hold the breath for a count of four.

  • Exhale Slowly: Now, exhale slowly through the mouth, also for a count of four.

  • Hold Again: After exhaling, hold the breath for another count of four.

  • Repeat: Complete these four steps for several rounds, typically for a total of four times in one session.

After becoming more familiar with this exercise, gradually increase the number of rounds. It is a practice that can be done multiple times throughout the day to help stay calm and reduce stress.

Roll Breathing:

Another helpful breathing exercise that encourages the full use of the lungs and helps find a comfortable breathing rhythm. The exercise can be done in any position, but lying on the back with the knees bent is a great choice, especially for beginners.

  • Get in Position: Lie on the back and place the left hand over the belly and the right hand on the chest. Take a moment to relax and notice how the hands move while breathing in and out.

  • Breathe Deeply: Focus on filling the lower lungs by inhaling through the nose. When inhaling, the belly hand should rise, but the chest hand should stay still.

  • Nose In, Mouth Out: Always breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth.

  • Repeat: Inhale and exhale this way for 8 to 10 breaths.

  • Add Another Step: After a few rounds of lower lung breathing, add a second step. Inhale first with the lower lungs, just like before. Then, continue inhaling into the upper chest. While doing this, the right hand will rise, and the left hand will fall a little as the belly goes down.

  • Exhale Slowly: Exhale slowly through the mouth, making a quiet whooshing sound as the hands move. While exhaling, imagine the tension leaving the body and feel more and more relaxed.

  • Focus on the Motion: Practice roll breathing for three to five minutes, paying close attention to the rising and falling motion, like the gently rolling waves.

Doing roll breathing daily for several weeks helps to experience its benefits. It can also be used as an instant relaxation technique when in need. Keep in mind that some people may feel a bit dizzy when they first try roll breathing, so start slowly and get familiar with it over time.

Equal Breathing:

As the name suggests, the breathing exercise needs to inhale and exhale for the same duration. It is a straightforward technique to help find balance and calm.

  • Inhale and Exhale: Start by inhaling slowly, counting from one to four.

  • Exhale at the Same Pace: While exhaling, count from one to four as well, making sure that the exhalation matches the same speed of inhalation.

  • Maintain Consistency: It is normal to feel the urge to speed up the counting while exhaling. But, the key to this exercise is to keep the inhalation and exhalation at the same length.

Equal breathing is a simple practice that can help find a sense of balance and relaxation. It is a great technique to try when want to feel centered and calm.


Deep breathing exercises may feel difficult at the beginning, and dizziness can occur until the body gets familiarized with the technique. The deep breathing exercises should be practiced in a quiet, light space for best results. It is not necessary, but maintaining the correct focus is the key while practicing breathing exercises. As the body gets familiarized with deep breathing practices, a person can practice it for 10 minutes three times every day for at least two weeks, which helps to reduce the pain.

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Dr. Nagaraj
Dr. Nagaraj



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