Posted on Mar 18, 2011 | Tags: the pain center of arizona, pain relief, chronic pain relief, endorphins, releasing endorphins, endorphins and chronic pain
This week at The Pain Center of Arizona and the Pain Channel, we’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on the power of the mind to overcome pain in the midst of battle, along with how to prevent injuries in preparation for the Spartan Race. Today we want to bring some alternative medicine and perhaps unconventional chronic pain relief ideas. Today, it’s all about little chemical messengers called endorphins.
What are Endorphins?
Technically speaking, endorphins are peptides that function as neurotransmitters. Endorphins are released from the pituitary gland, also known as the hypophysis, located just at the base of the brain at the bottom of the hypothalamus.
(The pituitary gland helps to control the following: growth, blood pressure, childbirth, breast milk production, thyroid gland function, metabolism, water regulation in the body, and body temperature).
Endorphins are produced and release by the pituitary gland during exercise, excitement, pain, laughter and love. There are estimated to be at least 20 types of endorphins that can get distributed throughout the nervous system. Endorphins have the ability to block nerve cells from releasing more pain signals to the brain an can act literally like morphine and codeine.
Can Endorphins Ease Chronic Pain?
While there have not been an incredible amount of research conducted on the topic releasing endorphins into the nervous system, many physicians believe there is a key in endorphins to help patients combat chronic pain, without the risk of opiate addiction. Some researchers believe that chronic pain patients have a lower-than-normal level of endorphins in their spinal fluid, which is why opiate drugs like morphine and codeine are prescribed. However, there is a fine line for physicians to follow when prescribing opiate drugs so as their patients don’t become addicted and/or their patient’s body becomes depleted of its natural opiates.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help to manage chronic pain by releasing endorphins. As hard as it may be to imagine exercising when in pain, researchers say the release of endorphins will block pain signals and help to curb anxiety and depression. Both conditions can make chronic pain even harder to deal with.
The clinic says exercise also helps build strength, improve flexibility, boost energy, enhance mood, protect the heart and blood vessels, improve quality of sleep and help the body maintain a healthy weight.
There are many ways to release natural endorphins and opiates within our bodies, from exercise and diet to love and laughter. Pain also releases endorphins in spurts, allowing humans and animals great feats of strength and willpower when injured. Stress, unfortunately, in long periods of time has the opposite effect on endorphins, not allowing them to be released as often. This is yet another reason why pain doctors will always implore patients to reduce their stress levels, which can be done by exercise.
If you want to learn more about conventional and unconventional chronic pain treatments, we have offices valley wide including Mesa and North Scottsdale.