Students of breathing know that sympathetic nervous system responses can be manipulated by the way you breathe. What needs further exploration is the relationship between Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) enervation and the myriad forms of pain and chronic illness. When this is clarified then the breath’s relationship and governing factors will become quite apparent.
There is more than one pain center1. For arthritis management (and possibly peripheral neuropathy as well) I believe that proper nutrition is indispensable. However the breath is the most readily available and alterable factor next to body positioning. All three must be addressed concurrently.
For arthritis the breath must come easier and fuller without increasing pain or discomfort2. Techniques effecting this may also reduce pain by increasing endorphin levels and parasympathetic inhibition/vasodilation, decreasing SNS vasoconstriction, and driving pH balance more towards alkaline.
Body positions are critical to reduce discomfort and potential SNS responses. Stresses caused by lifting oneself while minimizing SNS activity all the while stretching/strengthening3 the muscles and connective tissues (neuromuscular performance). Supporting the inflamed area(s) is critical to maintenance and recovery otherwise these stresses can restrict the breath and cause a self defeating increase in symptoms. Mobilize, don’t traumatize.
1 The complexity of physiopharmacologic aspects of pain. Unite de Physiopharmacologic du systeme Nerveux (U 161) INSERM, Paris France. JM Besson. DRUGS 1997;53 Suppl 21
2 Effects of modified dance-based exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness, psychological state and health status of persons with rheumatoid arthritis. Am J Phys Med Rahabil 1995 Jan;774(1)19-27
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3 Effects of strength training on neuromuscular function and disease activity in patients with recent-onset inflammatory arthritis. Scand J Rheumatol 1994;23(5)237-242
4 Nippon Seikeigeka Gakkai Zasshi 1981 Apr; 55(4)371-385. The stimulation of the SNS may be important in the pathogenesis of Barre-Leon syndrome in cervical spondylosis.
Our recommended program for arthritis: