A review of analgesic and emotive breathing

A review of analgesic and emotive breathing: a multidisciplinary approach – J Multidiscip Healthc. 2016 Feb – free full-text PMC article

The action of respiration is turning out to be much more significant that just to take in air. This fundamental process influences many other body systems as we unthinkingly take breaths, all day, every day, all our lives.

The diaphragm is the primary muscle involved in breathing and other non-primarily respiratory functions such as the maintenance of correct posture and lumbar and sacroiliac movement.

It intervenes to facilitate cleaning of the upper airways through coughing, facilitates the evacuation of the intestines, and promotes the redistribution of the body’s blood.

The diaphragm also has the ability to affect the perception of pain and the emotional state of the patient, functions that are the subject of this article.  

The aim of this article is to gather for the first time, within a single text, information on the nonrespiratory functions of the diaphragm muscle and its analgesic and emotional response functions.

It also aims to highlight and reflect on the fact that when the diaphragm is treated manually, a daily occurrence for manual operators, it is not just an area of musculature that is treated but the entire body, including the psyche.

This reflection allows for a multidisciplinary approach to the diaphragm and the collaboration of various medical and nonmedical practitioners, with the ultimate goal of regaining or improving the patient’s physical and mental well-being.


The diaphragm is the main respiratory muscle that is able to influence, through its contractions, the act of breathing. 

The diaphragm also facilitates the venous and lymphatic return, works to maintain a balanced posture during several changes of the body positions, allowing the viscera above and below the diaphragm to work properly.

The diaphragm muscle plays a key role in health and in the many activities of the human body.

The respiratory diaphragm muscle is innervated by the phrenic nerve (C3–C5) and the vagus nerve (cranial nerve X)

The areas of the brain involved in the control of breathing are different and their activation weight changes depending on the type of breathing, metabolic conditions, and interoceptive and exteroceptive information.

Analgesic respiration

The perception of pain is diminished if the breath is held after a deep breath, a condition in which the diaphragm is lowered. This event appears to reflect the involvement of baroreceptors

From Wikipedia: Baroreceptors (or archaically, pressoreceptors) are sensors located in the blood vessels of all vertebrate animals. They sense the blood pressure and relay the information to the brain, so that a proper blood pressure can be maintained.
Baroreceptors are a type of mechanoreceptor sensory neuron that is excited by stretch of the blood vessel.
This sensory information is used primarily in autonomic reflexes that in turn influence the heart cardiac output and vascular smooth muscle to influence total peripheral resistance.
Baroreceptors act immediately as part of a negative feedback system called the baroreflex, as soon as there is a change from the usual mean arterial blood pressure, returning the pressure toward a normal level.

The intervention of the baroreceptors affects the muscle tone, as it decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, reducing the contractile tone.

The reduction of pain perception is greater if the subject is aware of the pain itself.

This makes no sense. How can you reduce pain perception when pain is not perceived?

Acute and chronic pain can alter the baroreceptor function and consequently damage the regulatory function of the cardiovascular system; this will lead, in the long run, to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

There is a close relationship between emotion, respiration, and the intervention of baroreceptors.

Emotional experience influences the response to pain, because the pain response is not simply a neural process started by nociceptive afferents.

Emotional states, such as anxiety or depression, and psychiatric disorders are able to negatively alter the baroreceptor response.

Stress can lead to anxiety and/or depression, resulting in an alteration of the proper functioning of the diaphragm.

Modifications in the emotional state cause a perception of greater pain. We can state that the diaphragm has an influence on baroreceptors and the perception of pain and vice versa.

Recent scientific evidence highlights the ability to carry pain afferents by the vagus nerve, especially for visceral pain.

The vagus nerve is also involved in a surprising number of body systems and effects.

See other posts about the Vagus Nerve, including:

Studies have shown that vagal afferents respond to nociceptive mechanical and chemical stimulation from the visceral area and this leads to brain stem representation of nociceptive signals.

The action of the diaphragm is not controlled solely by metabolic demands, but also by emotional states, such as sadness, fear, anxiety, and anger.

The interaction between respiration and emotion involves a complex interaction between the brain stem and the brain centers such as the limbic area and cortex.

The life of the person and his/her personality influence the behavior of the diaphram.

The amygdala, which is part of the limbic system, is reciprocally connected to each of the respiratory areas, just as the medulla oblongata, and is considered the most important area that manages emotive breathing.


The diaphragm influences the intensity of the pain and there is an indisputable association with emotions and experience acknowledged by the patient.  


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