Effect of breathing rate on pain and emotion in women with fibromyalgia

Researchers at Arizona State University, in Tempe studied the effects of breathing rate following thermal pain in women with fibromyalgia syndrome.

First, the details.

  • 27 women with fibromyalgia syndrome and 25 age-matched healthy control women were exposed to low and moderate thermal pain pulses during paced breathing at their normal rate and one-half their normal rate.

And, the results.

  • Slow breathing reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness, particularly for moderate vs mild pain vs normal breathing.
  • The effects of slow breathing on pain were less reliable for women with fibromyalgia vs healthy women.
  • Influence of “affect” on the response to slow breathing
    • “Affect” describes whether a person is in a positive or negative mood.
    • Slow breathing decreased negative affect following thermal pain for both groups vs normal breathing.
    • It increased positive affect only for healthy women with high negative affect.
    • Participants who reported higher levels of positive affect prior to the study showed greater decreases in negative affect as a result of slow versus normal breathing.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded that the “findings provide support for prior reports on the benefits of yogic breathing and mindful Zen meditation for pain and depressed affect.”

However, they also caution that patients with chronic pain may require guidance in order to obtain benefit from reduced breathing rates.

Another recent study included breathing as part of a more comprehensive program fibromyalgia and reported improved flexibility and reduced impact of the illness.

1/19/10 20:25 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.