Researchers have suggested that taking in one’s breath at the time of injection will make the experience less painful. The abstract of the study is available online.
A researcher from the University of Jaén in Spain, Gustavo Reyes del Paso, hypothesised that holding one’s breath will increase one’s pain threshold; holding the breath is a way of raising blood pressure and stimulating pressure sensors, such that one becomes less sensitive to pain.
To test his theory, he made 38 participants to hold their breath while he squeezed their fingernails. He then did the same thing when they were breathing slowly. The findings reveal that the volunteers felt less pain when they held their breath.
Reyes del Paso explained his belief that holding the breath is a natural response to pain.
“Several of our volunteers told us they already do this when they are in pain,” he says.
According to him, this will only happen when you do so before the pain starts, for instance, when you are expecting the prick of the needle during injection. But, this will not work for unexpected, sudden injury.
“It may be possible to coach people in acute pain – such as during childbirth – to control their pain by breath-holding,” says Richard Chapman at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
However, Chapman also indicated that this might be harmful in certain situations: holding one’s breath might tense one’s muscles such that the pain is felt even more.