Pain Control After Surgery: Breathing for Relaxation

Part 3

Acute Pain Management Guideline Panel. Pain Control After Surgery. A Patient's Guide. AHCPR Pub. No. 92-0021. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Feb. 1992.

Example: Slow Rythmic Breathing for Relaxation

  1. Breathe in slowly and deeply.
  2. As you breathe out slowly, feel yourself beginning to relax; feel the tension leaving your body.
  3. Now breathe in and out slowly and regularly, at whatever rate is comfortable for you. You may wish to try abdominal breathing. If you do not know how to do abdominal breathing, ask your nurse for help.
  4. To help you focus on your breathing and breathe slowly and rhythmically:
    • Breathe in as you say silently to yourself, "in, two, three." Breathe out as you say silently to yourself, "out, two, three" or
    • Each time you breathe out, say silently to yourself a word such as peace or relax.
  5. You may imagine that you are doing this in a place that is very calming and relaxing for you, such as lying in the sun at the beach. Do steps 1 through 4 only once or repeat steps 3 and 4 for up to 20 minutes.
  6. End with a slow deep breath. As you breathe out say to yourself, "I feel alert and relaxed."

pain control after surgery brochure cover

Additional points: If you intend to do this for more than a few seconds, try to get in a comfortable position in a quiet place. You may close your eyes or focus on an object. This breathing exercise may be used for only a few seconds or for up to 20 minutes.

* From: McCaffery, M. and Beebe, A. (1989). Pain: Clinical manual for nursing practice. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Company.

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Updated on: 03/24/16
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