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 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
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.
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.