How Do Pain Relievers Work? How Does Massage Treat Pain?

pain shoulderThere was a wonderful, short, animated video recently of a Ted Ed talk given by George Zaidan about the chemistry and science behind how pain relievers (specifically aspirin and ibuprofen) work. "Some people take aspirin or ibuprofen to treat everyday aches and pains, but how exactly do the different classes of pain relievers work? Learn about the basic physiology of how humans experience pain, and the mechanics of the medicines we've invented to block or circumvent that discomfort."

Here's the video explaining:

Let's tackle another question, while we are on the topic of pain relief:

How exactly does massage therapy relieve pain? We have already learned about the presence of Nociceptors - those pain receptors that transmit pain signals from our body up to our brain. Fortunately, we also experience lots of other signals going up to our brain - touch, temperature, tickle, itch, and pressure, to name a few! The Gate theory of pain explains that introducing other stimulus can help interfere with pain signals trying to reach our brain. Imagine that the spinal cord is a highway reaching up to the brain, that pain signals are hot, red cars, speeding towards it. Other stimuli like touch and pressure introduce traffic to the highway. This explains why we instinctively rub our knee after we've bumped it into something. The pressure from our nurturing hand actually does make it feel better. Massage introduces a change in temperature, also pressure, and touch, in a relaxing and enjoyable way, which can help reduce overall feelings of pain. By addressing painful conditions such as adhesions (knots) in the muscle, scar tissue, muscle spasms, as well as trigger points, massage helps alleviate chronic pain and referred pain.

Blog Post by: Rachel Beider, LMT