Meditative breathing may help manage chronic pain

April 7, 2010

A new study published in the journal Pain offers support for the benefits of yoga-style breathing and meditation to help control chronic pain.

The research, completed by scientists at Arizona State University and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, is the first to directly examine the benefits of breathing rate on physical and emotional reaction to pain. Download Full Image

In essence, the researchers put meditation to the test. During the study trials, participants where subjected to brief pulses of moderately painful heat on their palms. They were asked to report what they felt in three ways: how strong was the pain, how unpleasant was the pain, and how much the pain affected their emotional state

By simply instructing participants to pace their breathing to an ellipse on a screen in front of them, the researchers eliminated expectations that could bias results. By actually administering a painful heat stimulus the researchers could also control the amount of pain each person received, and could compare pain ratings made when the person was breathing normally with their slow breathing.

The study involved two groups of women – 27 diagnosed with chronic pain from Fibromyalgia and 25 healthy women of the same age.

Compared to normal breathing, slow breathing reduced ratings of pain intensity and unpleasantness as well as negative emotion. The benefit of slow breathing in relieving pain was greatest in the healthy women.

Not all women with Fibromyalgia benefited from slow breathing. Only those who also reported having “a steady diet” of positive emotion in their lives – who had the  “capacity” to feel positive – felt less pain when breathing at half their normal rates.

“Slow breathing provides a natural means for dampening activity in the stress system of the brain, leading to a reduction in pain,” said Alex Zautra, Foundation Professor of Psychology at ASU and the study’s lead author.

The first change that occurs with slower breathing is greater parasympathetic response, which provides a counterbalance to sympathetic activation that is often aroused by pain and that engenders feelings of anxiety and nervous tension, Zutra said.

“A greater state of calm induced with slower breathing also opens the mind to a greater capacity to feel emotions other than pain, providing perspective, flexibility and choice in the regulation of inner states,” he said.  “In doing so, slow breathing reduces the dominance of the fight/flight response within us extending the calm influence of parasympathetic activation to allow for better emotion regulation and cognitive shifts from helplessness to action.”

For Fibromyalgia patients, however, meditative breathing alone is insufficient. Interventions that help them to experience positive emotions and learn to harness those feelings are needed to reignite their capacity to be resilient in the face of chronic pain.

“Treatment for Fibromyalgia includes medication, but that only helps some – rheumatologists estimate even the latest medications are only 35 percent affective in relieving pain,” Zautra said. “Physical therapy and new mind-body methods designed to sustain positive affect and teach methods for coping with stressful situations are vital components of treatment.”

This study was funded by the Arizona’s Institute for Mental Health Research. Davis and Zautra are now conducting clinical trials to test the benefit of their mind-body intervention in a five-year project funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.

Sharon Keeler

Novices and professionals to meet for Sun Angel Track Classic

April 7, 2010

Sun"> Devil Meet Notes and Stats (pdf) | Heat">">Heat Sheets and Schedule

For the 31st year in a row, the Arizona State University track and field program will welcome teams and individuals to Sun Angel Stadium in Tempe as the Sun Devils are set to host the Sun Angel Track Classic this Thursday through Saturday. The high school portion of the meet will open the weekend all day Thursday with the collegiate hammer throw taking place on Friday. All other collegiate events, along with finals of selected high school events, will be held on Saturday. Several Sun Devils also will travel over to Mesa on Friday to compete in the Mesa Classic at MCC. Download Full Image

Top of the ladder
The Sun Angel Track Classic will once again have a premiere section, which is set to begin Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. Selected events will be held at this time along with many of the finals of high school events that were run on Thursday. The men's and women's shot put and the men's and women's long jump also will have a premiere section starting at 7:30 p.m., including a premiere men's shot put starting around 8:30 p.m. with current world leader and Sun Devil Ryan">">Ryan Whiting set to compete.

More information
For updated time schedules and the heat sheets for all three days, visit the track and field page on and click on HEAT SHEETS: 31st Sun Angel Track Classic.

Meet honoree: Desiree">">D... Davila
ASU graduate and Team USA member Desiree">">D... Davila is the meet honoree of the 31st Sun Angel Track Classic, which comes one month after the former Sun Devil All-American raced for the U.S. squad at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and placed 10th overall in the 3,000m run. A native of San Diego, Davila competed for the Sun Devils in both cross country and track & field and earned All-America honors in each, including the 2003 cross country season and the 2003 outdoor track season (5,000m run). An All-Pac-10 selection in cross country, Davila also was a three-time All-Region honoree. Following her time in Tempe, Davila joined the Brooks-Hanson Running Project where she has continued to improve in the long distance events and has represented the U.S. at four World Championships. Along with her showing at the 2010 indoor championships, Davila has added an 11th-place finish at the 2009 Marathon World Championships, a 34th-place showing in the 2007 Half-Marathon World Championships and a 43rd-place finish in the 2006 20km World Championships. Overall, Davila continues to post times that perennially rank her among the best in the world. This weekend, Davila also will compete in the Sun Angel as she is set to race in the 5,000m run.

And you are?
There will be a large group of collegiate programs represented this weekend at the SATC, including six men's teams and five women's teams that are currently ranked in the April 6 release of the USTFCCCA Top 25 rankings. The ranked men's teams include No. 7 Auburn, No. 10 ASU, No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 20 BYU, No. 21 Minnesota and No. 22 Kansas State while women's ranked teams that will be represented include No. 6 Penn State, No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 12 BYU, No. 14 Auburn and No. 17 Arizona.

More teams
Here are the other teams that also will be represented this weekend in Tempe: Air Force, Boise State, Central Arizona, Central Michigan, Colorado State, CS Northridge, DePaul, Georgetown, Hawaii, Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Mesa CC, Mesa State, Michigan State, Northern Arizona, Paradise Valley CC, Pima CC, Pittsburgh, Portland State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Texas Southern, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UNLV and West Virginia.

Welcome back, Devils
While the bulk of the entries into the meet come from the collegiate field, there are a handful of individuals that will be competing, including many former Sun Devils and other elite athletes. The list of former ASU greats in the field include Aaron">">Aaron Aguayo, Kyle">">Kyle Alcorn, Tai">">Tai Battle, Nick Hysong (2000 Olympic Pole Vault Gold Medalist), April">">A... Kubishta, Dwight">">... Phillips (2004 Olympic Long Jump Gold Medalist), Jessica">"... Pressley, Trevel Quinley (2008 Olympian), Sarah">">Sarah Stevens and Charonda"> Williams.

More than those
Former Olympians and NCAA champions also will be on hand to compete this weekend, including the likes of Olympians Angelo Taylor (2008 Olympic Gold Medalist for Team USA in the 400m dash and the 4x400m relay) and Bryan Barnett (Team Canada in 2008) and World Championship competitors Lancford Davis (Jamaica's 2010 indoor 4x400m relay) and Greg Nixon (USA's gold medal 4x400m relay in 2008 and 2010). There are many other elite competitors in the field, both with teams and unattached, that also are entered this weekend.

World report: he's number one
Ryan">">Ryan Whiting opened up his senior outdoor season in a big way over the weekend at the ASU Invitational as the defending NCAA champion launched the shot put 21.25m (69-08.75) to not only win the event by over 12-feet, but also take over the top spot on the world lists and better his own school record that he set last year with a toss of 20.99m. Only the second man to put the shot over 21-meters this outdoor season, Whiting overtook Andrei Mikhnevich (Belarus), who was the leader at 21.04m thrown on March 20.

World report: take three
On March 28, former Sun Devil All-American Amy">">Amy Hastings represented the U.S. at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where the American women finished third overall as a team to capture the team's first medal since 2003. Hastings was the fourth finisher for Team USA, covering the 8,000m course in 26:20 to finish 25th overall. This most recent race was Hastings' third at the world level in cross country as she also had competed in the 2008 senior meet (68th) and the 2003 junior world meet (20th).

Nationally known
The USTFCCCA released the first rankings for the outdoor season on Wednesday with the Sun Devil men coming at No. 10 on the list while the women are not among the Top 25. The men's Top 4 teams are Florida, Texas A&M, Oregon and Texas Tech while the women's Top 4 is Texas A&M, Oregon, LSU and Florida State.

Among the Top 10
Following the ASU Invitational, the Sun Devils currently hold six total marks that rank among the Top 10 in the NCAA, including five held by the men. Two weeks ago at the Baldy Castillo Invitational, Jasmine">">J... Chaney ran 23.44 in the 200m dash to record the third-best time in the nation while Jeff">">Jeff Helmer ran 8:13.21 in the 3,000m run to turn in the second-best time this season (the 3,000m run is not contested at the NCAA Championships). Last week, at the ASU Invitational, the men's 4x100m relay turned the eighth-best time of 40.12 while Whiting's shot put toss was accompanied by to Top 10 marks recorded by Jason">">Jason Lewis in the discus and hammer (see below).

More Top 10
Two women competed in the heptathlon at the Jim Click Multis last weekend with both posting scores that rank among the Top 10 all-time in ASU history. In her first collegiate heptathlon, freshman Keia">">Keia Pinnick scored 5,017 points, which ranks her sixth on the all-time Sun Devil lists while Samantha"> Henderson scored 4,746 points to take over the No. 8 spot on the list. Pinnick and Henderson were the Top 2 collegiate finishers in the field as they placed fourth and fifth overall, respectively.

Lewis lets it fly
Just as Ryan">">Ryan Whiting had a big day in his opening outdoor meet of the season, fellow thrower Jason">">Jason Lewis also posted an impressive debut as he won both events he entered, the discus and the hammer. First up, Lewis was the victor in the hammer with his toss of 66.15m before he won the discus with a toss of 56.24m. So far this year, Lewis' mark in the hammer ranks as the fourth-best in the NCAA while his discus toss stands ninth.

World lists
Two men and two women with ties to the ASU program currently hold marks that rank them among the Top 20 in the world. Along with Ryan">">Ryan Whiting's world-leading shot put mark, Trevell Quinely is the only other man on the list as he stands 12th in the long jump at 7.79m. On the women's side, current Sun Devil Anna">">Anna Jelmini, who is redshirting this season, is 16th in the shot put with a toss of 17.27m. Former Sun Devil Charonda"> Williams opened her season at the Stanford Invitational and ran 23.06 in the 200m dash and 11.38 in the 100m dash, which currently ranks her second and 10th in the world, respectively.

Returning champion
Heading into the outdoor season, one Sun Devil returns to competition as the defending national champion and that is Ryan">">Ryan Whiting in the men's shot put. The senior captured his first outdoor title last year in Fayetteville, Ark., and the middle of what is three in a row overall (2009 indoor, 2009 outdoor, 2010 indoor). Whiting won the competition with a heave of 20.11m (65-11.75) and gave him a sweep of the indoor and outdoor crowns, marking the 18th time in the past 45 years a man has accomplished the sweep. He is the 12th different man to do so and the first since 2007.

More on Whiting
With his indoor shot put championship back in March, Ryan">">Ryan Whiting now has four total NCAA titles in the event, including a three-peat in the indoor event and one outdoors. In the history of the shot put at the NCAA meets, Whiting is currently tied for fifth all-time with Carl Myerscough (Nebraska), who won two indoors and two outdoors, and a title outdoors this year for Whiting would move him into a three-way tie for third-most with Hans Hogland (UTEP) and Janus Robberts (SMU). Whiting concluded his indoor campaign with three titles, making him one of four men to win at least three in a career. Should he win the outdoor title this year, his two crowns would tie him 11 other men that won twice and make him the 19th man to win two or more in a career.

Returning All-Americans: men
Three men return for their senior seasons after earning All-America honors outdoors. Ryan">">Ryan Whiting is back to defend his shot put title and improve upon his second-place finish in the discus while Jason">">Jason Lewis, the only man in the nation last year to qualify for all three weight events outdoors, is back after sixth-place showings in the discus and hammer. Brandon">">B... Bethke also is back after taking fourth place in the 5,000m run.

Returning All-Americans: women
Four women that earned All-America honors last year are back this season, including two with individual honors. On the track, the returning All-Americans include Jasmine">">J... Chaney (4x100m and 4x400m relay), Dominique'">">... Maloy (200m, 4x100m and 4x400m relay) and Kayla">">Kayla Sanchez (4x100m relay) while the lone returning field event All-American is Cj">">Cj Navarro (discus).

Next time out
ASU will travel to Walnut, Calif., and compete in the Mt. SAC Relays next weekend.