Back Pain Treatment – Breathing Techniques
In modern medicine and chiropractic care, there are hundreds of diagnostic tests and treatment programs that are designed to find the physical source of a patient's back pain and to treat it accordingly. Today, these tests are becoming more and more accurate at finding the cause of a patient's back pain, and there are custom treatments available to treat the pain symptoms accordingly. Many of these treatments are specifically designed to find the structural anomaly in the back that is leading to the instability of the spine and associated pain symptoms. Once the source of the pain is identified, the subsequent treatment protocols involve either medications to reduce the inflammation to the injured areas, medications to block the transmission of pain from these injured areas, or some type of healing therapy to heal the injured tissues - if possible. In some cases the structures that are injured may be rehabilitated so that the true source of pain may be eliminated. In other cases, the muscles may be built up around these injured structures that have sustained permanent damage or irreversible degeneration, so that a patient is able to make a recovery - in terms of the experience of pain. In other cases, the structures may be repaired to back surgery.
In all of the treatment cases mentioned above, the focus on the patient's treatment recovery program is focused directly on the physical location of the injury itself. Will doctors be putting their best forward in this manner, by focusing on the patient's physical injury without any focus on the patient's emotional experiences that they have while living with their chronic pain condition? Many doctors and patient advocates would argue that the answer is no. In some cases, doctors will also be sensitive to the patient's emotional experiences associated with their long-term pain condition and associated depression and anxiety that may come of it. Psychological symptoms such as stress and anxiety may be contributing factors in causing back pain and exacerbating the intensity of pain levels when outbreaks of back pain do occur. Conversely, relaxation techniques that reduce negative psychological feelings such as stress, distress, and anxiety may play a role in the reduction of patient's symptoms of back pain. These is ample scientific evidence for all of the ideas presented in this article (see Chronic Pain and Anxiety Disorders on the ADAA web page on chronic pain http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/chronic-pain).
In any event, here's what you need to know. Treatment techniques such as breathing techniques may lower a patient's experience of pain, even for conditions in which the pain symptoms have a physical cause. Let's look at some of these individual breathing techniques, how they work, and what types of benefits they provide to patients with chronic pain.
Controlled Deep Breathing: Many of our body's physical functions are fully under our control, such as the movement s of our skeletal muscles as we eat, walk, and push/pull/carry objects. Many of our body's functions are autonomic, and continue whether we are thinking about them or not. Some of our body's autonomic functions include the maintenance of our heartbeat, the maintenance of our core body temperature, and our breathing. Some of these functions remain steady regardless of how we feel emotionally, while others may be influenced by our emotions. For example, when we become scared or excited, our heart starts racing, our blood pressure increases, and our body temperature increases. Long term physiological changes such as these has been proven to adversely affect our health in ways such as reducing immune system functioning and increasing muscle tension in our backs and other muscle groups. By learning certain techniques such as deep controlled breathing, we may be able to control these types of physiological changes. Also, these types of breathing techniques have a calming effect on the body, and make us feel more peaceful and comfortable. While we are in these states of peace and comfort, it also may have the effect of removing our attention from the pain and physical discomfort we are experiencing.
The controlled breathing technique may be done as follows:
- Position your body in a comfortable position, in a comfortable chair/recliner with comfortable lighting. Next, close your eyes or focus your eyes on a fixed point or position.
- Next, slowly begin to consciously slow down your rate of breathing (respiratory rate). Breathe deeply, using your chest. While you are slowly breathing in and out, you should be sure to maintain a calm state of mind, and you should be focused on the task at hand. If you find yourself becoming distressed or distracted, focus on a word or phrase such as "I'm in the" and "zone." You may use these words or phrases as you are slowly breathing in and out, such as saying "I'm in the" while breathing in, and "zone" while breathing out.
- Continue breathing for 2-3 minutes while using these breathing techniques.
- Continue these techniques until you find yourself in a state of calmness and relaxation.