Often, people discover massage due to a painful condition. It’s great to know there is a natural solution to life’s painful problems, but how does massage reduce or relieve pain in the body? The lead article this month explains.
Of course, pain relief is just one of massage’s many benefits.
What is your favorite thing about massage?
- Feeling really relaxed?
- The stress melting away?
- Knowing it helps your body to function better?
- The relief of sore muscles?
- Feeling mentally calmer?
- All of the above?
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How Does Massage Relieve Pain?
Wouldn’t life be great if you could eliminate unnecessary chronic pain? A fascinating article written by James N. Dillard, M.D., that appeared in Body & Soul magazine discusses new scientific discoveries that are changing our understanding of pain — and the way we can deal with it. (One of the reported effective tools for managing pain is massage, so read on!).
Imagine you stub your toe. We’ve all been taught that nerve signals travel from the injured area (your toe) to your brain where the message is received and processed. This theory seems to make sense, but it doesn’t account for many situations — such as an athlete or performer who injures a muscle but doesn’t feel the pain until much later. The injury occurred, but the pain message is delayed. And what about fibromyalgia sufferers who experience severe pain with no apparent cause for it?
Scientists discovered a structure in the spinal cord (called a dorsal horn) that acts as a gateway for the messages en route to the brain. Sometimes this “gate” opens, allowing the messages to pass through, sometimes it doesn’t.
One factor that comes into play with this system is the speed of the message being sent. Dull pain — for instance, a tension headache — travels relatively slowly, from about half a mile to two miles per second. A sharper pain (a toothache or a torn muscle) travels between 5 and 30 miles per second. You may be surprised to learn that nonpainful touch sensations, including pressure and massage, travel much faster at 35 to 75 miles per second. If you have two types of sensation entering this dorsal horn area simultaneously, the faster of the two will be sent on, blocking the transmission of the slower one. This offers an explanation of why you would instinctively apply pressure to your stubbed toe; this sensation will get to the gate faster than the pain sensation. In his article, Dr. Dillard states, “Massage therapy can ease muscular pain . . .”
While your body is sending pain signals toward your brain, your nervous system is transmitting chemical messages in response, which can affect the gating mechanism. One of the best known types of these natural pain-blocking chemicals is the endorphin (which functions almost identically to morphine). Studies have shown that massage boosts the production of endorphins, further explaining how it helps to lessen pain.
Pain messages are sent from nerve cell to nerve cell, actually having to jump across a gap from one nerve cell to the next. This transmission is assisted by chemicals called neurotransmitters. Two of these neurotransmitters that you may recognize by name are dopamine and serotonin, both of which seem to serve as pain reducers. Other neurotransmitters are thought to promote pain. “When these neurotransmitters are thrown off balance and the body produces too little or too much of them, they can prevent normal, short-term pain from fading away,” says Dr. Dillard. Again, massage can help your body balance the neurotransmitter levels.
Here’s another factor: Upon receiving a pain signal, an area of your brain triggers the release of hormones that can bring about an increase in blood pressure and heart beat rate, as well as tensing your muscles and diverting blood away from your digestive system. Sometimes these hormonal responses continue on, contributing to chronic pain conditions. Again, massage has been shown to be an effective means of helping your body return to a more normal function.
You were probably aware that massage could help you feel better and reduce painful conditions. Isn’t it good to understand a little more about why it works!
Consuming too much sugar--
Americans are killing themselves by consuming far too much sugar, and should cut their consumption of the sweet stuff by two thirds, says the World Health Organization. In a revised guideline, WHO is now recommending that sugar make up no more than 5 percent of a person’s daily total calorie consumption. The average American currently consumes 18 percent of his calories in sugar. WHO suggests that people eat no more than 25 grams of sugar, or six teaspoons, in a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet—less than what’s found in a single can of soda. The new recommendation is based on widespread evidence linking free, or added, sugars to heightened risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. WHO had previously recommended restricting calories from sugar to 10 percent, which is still far less than most Americans take in every day. “The key point is that we are consuming way too much sugars for good health,” American Heart Association spokeswoman Rachel Johnson tells USA Today. Free sugars include those that are added to foods, such as table and brown sugar, honey and maple syrup, as well as processed sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.
— The WEEK, Vol 14 Iss 661
Tell your loved ones what you love about massage; your referrals are always appreciated!
It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.
— Earl Weaver
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
— Philip K. Dick
The content of this letter is not intended to replace professional medical advice.
If you’re ill, please consult a physician.
© 2014 Massage Marketing. Used with permission; all rights reserved.