- Karen Stoner, LMT
Massage Tips and Trivia: Massage can release the body's natural painkillers - endorphins
"Massage can release the body's natural painkillers - endorphins."
Endorphins are handy little hormones that have a great job - they are our body's natural painkillers. When the body feels anything - from touch to pain, this feeling is interpreted by receptors in the brain. When the receptors register pain, endorphins are released by the pituitary and hypothalamus glands to intercept and react with these receptors and can lessen the sensation of pain, plus increase the sensations of feeling good.
These endorphins do similar things to strong painkillers such as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone. The biggest difference between the endorphins and these drugs is that since the body releases them, their molecular structure is compatible with each individual's body so they are not considered a foreign substance, have no adverse side effects, and no risk of addiction, dependency, or overdose. These drugs are usually prescribed when there is pain or an issue present that is too severe for our bodies' natural endorphins to "keep up". Unfortunately, these drugs are so strong, they can change what our receptors perceive as "needed", plus the side effects of the pain killers can mess with our hormone function so endorphins don't work as well, therefore increasing our dependency on these drugs. It is currently being proposed and studied if massage should be utilized to combat the opioid epidemic rather than the continued prescribing and subsequent abuse of painkillers.
We can get our bodies to release endorphins in several ways. Exercises is the most "quick" way to get our bodies to release endorphins. Unfortunately, if one is in pain, it can be difficult to physically exercise. Fortunately, lots of activities that basically make you feel good can also increase endorphins such as laughing, listening to preferred music, eating dark chocolate, meditation, and of course, getting a massage. Massage helps calm the body's central nervous system so it already helps decrease pain, plus it helps the body to release endorphins to help combat that pain, plus it has the added benefit of possibly helping the area or issue that is causing the pain to begin with. So if pain is an issue, increasing the body's natural painkillers is a healthy way to combat it. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical companies haven't yet figured out how to monetize massage, so they are going to keep pushing the drugs and artificial painkiller over natural and safer alternatives.