Breathing Exercises for Pain Management in Cancer Survivor: A Systematic Review

Haiying Wang, Daniel Liu, Alison Wang, Jing-Yu (Benjamin) Tan, Houqiang Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: Unmanaged pain significantly affects cancer survivors’ quality of life. Nurses should play a significant role in pain management through non-pharmacological interventions. This review aims to explore the efficacy and safety of breathing exercises for pain management in all cancer survivors. Design: A systematic review. Data sources: Thirteen databases, including PubMed, EMBase, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, CINAHL, JBI, Science Direct, Scopus, SocINDEX, Web of Science, PsycINFO, CNKI, and Wan Fang, were searched from inception to May, 2021. Review/analysis methods: Studies that focused on the efficacy of breathing exercises for pain management, regardless of the age of the cancer survivors, were included. Cochrane tools were used for the quality appraisal of the included studies. Because of the limited number of studies, descriptive data analysis was used to summarize the results. Results: Ten studies were included. Slow pursed lip breathing showed benefits for post-surgical pain. Contradictory findings were identified in the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery for post-surgical pain. Slow deep breathing and Hey-Hu regular breathing techniques were effective for pain management in pediatric cancer patients. The Active Cycle of Breathing Technique and five-minute mindful breathing did not have any statistically significant effects on pain relief. Quality of life was measured in three studies, with some improvement. Only one study addressed adverse events and reported that no adverse events occurred. Conclusions: Breathing exercises may be a promising approach to pain relief in cancer survivors. However, more rigorously designed studies are required to establish the evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalPain Management Nursing
Issue number3
Early online date22 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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