Conscious connected breathing with breath retention intervention in adults with chronic low back pain: protocol for a randomized controlled pilot study

Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2023 Jan 24;9(1):15. doi: 10.1186/s40814-023-01247-9.


Background: Chronic pain is a major source of human suffering, and chronic low back pain (cLBP) is among the most prevalent, costly, and disabling of pain conditions. Due to the significant personal and societal burden and the complex and recurring nature of cLBP, self-management approaches that can be practiced at home are highly relevant to develop and test. The respiratory system is one of the most integrated systems of the body, and breathing is bidirectionally related with stress, emotion, and pain. Thus, the widespread physiological and psychological impact of breathing practices and breathwork interventions hold substantial promise as possible self-management strategies for chronic pain. The primary aim of the current randomized pilot study is to test the feasibility and acceptability of a conscious connected breathing with breath retention intervention compared to a sham control condition.

Methods: The rationale and procedures for testing a 5-day conscious connected breathing with breath retention intervention, compared to a deep breathing sham control intervention, in 24 adults (18-65 years) with cLBP is described. Both interventions will be delivered using standardized audio recordings and practiced over 5 days (two times in-person and three times at-home), and both are described as Breathing and Attention Training to reduce possible expectancy and placebo effects common in pain research. The primary outcomes for this study are feasibility and acceptability. Feasibility will be evaluated by determining rates of participant recruitment, adherence, retention, and study assessment completion, and acceptability will be evaluated by assessing participants' satisfaction and helpfulness of the intervention. We will also measure other clinical pain, psychological, behavioral, and physiological variables that are planned to be included in a follow-up randomized controlled trial.

Discussion: This will be the first study to examine the effects of a conscious connected breathing with breath retention intervention for individuals with chronic pain. The successful completion of this smaller-scale pilot study will provide data regarding the feasibility and acceptability to conduct a subsequent trial testing the efficacy of this breathing self-management practice for adults with cLBP.

Trial registration:, identifier NCT04740710 . Registered on 5 February 2021.

Keywords: Breathing practice; Breathwork; Chronic low back pain; Chronic pain; Conscious connected breathing; Intervention development; Self-management.

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