So how does massage reduce pain? – Part 2 25 Dec 2019Previously I explained the scientific theory for "How does massage reduce muscle pain?" in the short term . But what about the long term? I would like to introduce to you the "descending pain suppression mechanism." The brain is not a passive receiver of sensory messages, but rather a centre that interprets them and makes constant adjustments accordingly. For example, everyone knows that the way you perceive pain will be influenced by whether you focus on it or think of something else instead. And it seems reasonable to suppose that evolutionary selection may have favoured those individuals who could ignore pain signals for long enough to take actions that let them escape and survive danger.
Unpleasant cutaneous sensations stimulate nuclei within the mid brain. These nuclei in turn initiate activity in the descending spinal tracts that release endogenous opiates (inhibitory neurotransmitters) within the spinal segment receiving the painful input. This diminishes the intensity of the pain transmitted to the higher centres. Sports and Deep Tissue massage techniques can reinforce a naturally occurring discomfort, causing much greater release of opiates and achieve a more profound pain suppression.References Basbaum A, Fields H. (1978) Endogenous pain control mechanisms: review and hypothesis. Ann Neurol 4: 451-2. Watson J (1982) Pain mechanisms: a review. 3. Endogenous pain mechanisms. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy 27: 135-43