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It Hurts So Good: The Truth About Pain & Massage Therapy

One thing we must understand about “pain” is that it is essential for our survival, as it helps us keep away from danger. Without pain we would melt our hands on burning pots or pans. The path that pain takes starts in the nociceptors which are the pain receptors of our body. From the point of sensation, the nociceptors send neurotransmitters (the chemical) up the nerves through the spinal cord and into to the thalamus within the brain. It is the body’s sensory cortex that informs the brain of where the pain is located. Everyone has a different pain tolerance level. The tolerance level depends on many factors such as male sexual drive anxiety, previous experiences, ability to cope, ethnicity, age, and physical condition.

Why is it that sometimes I have short lived pain, but others have pain every day? There is acute
pain, which lasts for a short period of time and is often easy to pinpoint. For example, you may get a paper cut or jam a toe. On the other hand, there is chronic pain that can be more of a bear to handle. Chronic pain can last for years on end, varying from dull aches to severe or even crippling pains. Examples of chronic pain include fibromyalgia or herniated disks. Having persistent chronic pain could lead to depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

Why is it that when I bump into the table I immediately touch or rub around the injured area? Proposed by Melzack and Wall in 1965, The Gate Theory of Pain states that there is a limit to how many nerve impulses can get through the spinal cord and to the brain at one time. It also explains the human body’s reaction to rub or put pressure on an injury.

How does massage help ease pain according to The Gate Theory? The sensation of light touch and pressure transmit impulses to the brain faster than nerves carry information from pain receptors. When we touch, hold, or rub an area that has been inflicted with pain, the spinal cord is loaded with the stimulation‘s sensation first, thus subsiding the feeling of pain. The stimulation closes off the “gate” so pain cannot make it through. Massage also distracts, relaxes, and increases the circulation. An increased amount of circulation removes the histamine, prostaglandins, and lactic acid (all of which promote sensitivity of the pain receptors) that injured tissue releases. Massage helps reduce the amount of perceived pain.

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