Flinch Response to Pain…Does it Help?

Does flinching help when you are in pain?

When we experience pain, a common reaction is to wince or flinch. Flinching is the nervous system's way of moving away from the pain to protect the part of your body at risk. But does it help?

In a recent session with a client, it was noticeable that when they flinched in response to shoulder pain, other body parts, including their breath, tightened. In tightening up, their pain did not lessen but increased.

We explored what it would be like to breathe out and relax when they noticed a pain signal instead of holding their breath and tensing. 

The results were instant. The pain reduced, and they felt at more ease.

It may sound obvious to breathe out and relax when we are in pain, but we don't. The automatic reaction is to tighten up rather than relax, unless you train the opposite.

In Kungfu training and other fighting systems, we learn to relax and release held tensions, especially when receiving a blow. Admittedly, it takes time and training.

Qigong breathing is much easier, and you don't need to be hit to test it out it's effectiveness. 

The breathing method to release tension and pain is simple; gently open your mouth and exhale with a quiet 'haa' sound. Similar to the sound you make when you sigh.

Sighing is a learned behaviour that helps regulate breathing and homestasis under psychological and pathological conditions.

Practice exhaling with a quiet and gentle 'haa' as you count to six, then slowly inhale through the nose to the count of four. Once you become more relaxed you may find your exhale is naturally longer. Don't force the breath, just gently focus on the breath, and imagine the place of pain, and surrounding area relax. 

If the six/four count is too long for you, at the moment, simply breathe out for as long is comfortable for you and then build up to a longer, natural exhale. You don't really need to count, but it may help you focus more on the breath. 

Shifting your focus is a helpful way to relieve pain and stress.

  • Is this breathing simple? Yes. 
  • Is it easy? not always. It may take some regular practice. So be patient and keep practicing.
  • Is it effective? Definately. 

This type of breathing is common in Cosmos Qigong and helps relax the nervous system, your mind, and helps release tension, stress and pain.

The best thing to do is give it a try.

Hi, I am Tim Franklin, a Shaolin Arts teacher, mind/body/energy therapist and Qigong Healer, with over 20 years experience in helping people reduce pain, stress, anxiety and tension.