Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Massage for Pain Relief

There are apparently over 80 different styles of massage and body therapy, many of which have been developed by individual practitioners who have taken the original massage idea and developed it as a result of their practical experiences.

Furthermore, there are many associated practices like reflexology and shiatsu which are broadly associated but not entirely synonymous with massage that some people sometimes confuse with massage.

The basic concept of massage as a pain relief strategy is that rubbing and massaging various different points of your body confuses or ‘side-tracks’ your ability to register pain according to what is known as the ‘gate control theory’.

This theory is based upon the concept that pain impulses travel from various different parts of your body through the central nervous system and your spinal column to the brain. It is only when these pain signals arrive in your brain that you register pain although of course, it is a matter of a very small number of nanoseconds between the stimuli happening at some place or point on your body and your brain registering pain.

The ‘gate control theory’ explanation of why massage works as a pain relief strategy is based on the idea that your body only has the ability to send a certain number of signals to your brain at any one time, and if certain signals do not reach your brain, they will not be ‘registered’. Consequently, when you are enjoying a relaxing massage, the rubbing and stroking sends other far more pleasurable signals to your brain, thus ‘populating’ the nerves that carry these signals with a positive message leaving no room for the negative pain message to get through.

There is also some evidence that pleasurable massage results in the release of endorphins which are enzymes produced by the pituitary gland, the positive effects of which resemble the effects of opiate drugs. However, as endorphins are entirely natural and their production is strictly controlled by your body, there is no potential harm involved in experiencing the happiness or exhilaration that is often known as an ‘endorphin rush’.

Furthermore, endorphins also prevent nerve cells releasing more pain signals, which is for example one of the reasons why top sports people can often continue to compete even when they are injured, because extreme activity allied to excitement prompts the ‘rush’ that masks the pain.

The following are the forms of massage that are most commonly associated with providing pain relief.