Hormones and Pain

Even though this post does appear to be targeted to women, I hope that the men will read it too, because we are all affected by hormones, and far too many of us, both women and men, are affected by chronic pain.

What prompted me to start reading up on this topic was that many women I know have told me that their pain (joint pain, back pain, neck pain, basically ANY pain) was worse at certain times of the month and they felt that it was hormone related. Beyond that, every one of these women, myself included, have experienced the frustration of having a doctor be dismissive of the idea that hormonal fluctuations may increase pain in all areas of the body (not just in the female organs).

What IS a hormone anyway? A hormone is a substance produced in the body that stimulates cells or tissue to act. They are powerful.  Off the top of your head, can you guess how many hormones there are roaming around your body? A quick search on the internet will tell you that there are about 50 different hormones in the body…so yeah, hormones are kind of a big deal.

After reading many articles on this topic, I found that the consensus seems to be that hormones may very well play a big role in chronic pain. So, ladies: it is NOT all in your head! Here are just a few examples of the articles out there:

  • This article indicates that fluctuations in women’s hormonal cycles appear to be associated with changes in the response to pain: Click Here.
  • This article suggests that when estrogen levels are high, more endorphins are released and when estrogen levels are low, less endorphins are released: Click Here . Endorphins help us to feel less pain.
  • Even though estrogen and progesterone seem to be the biggest players in this game, there are other hormones that also participate. According to this site: Article_Chronic_Pain_And_Hormones, low levels of Vitamin D, cortisol, testosterone, thyroid and DHEA can all be connected to chronic pain.

If you would like to read more about hormones and their relation to pain, there are lots of articles here: www.hormonesandpaincare.com

Therapeutic Massage as a Preventative

     I don’t want to sound like I’m just trying to get you to buy more massage, but it may come off sounding that way, because, after all, what is good for you, is good for me too.  However, I have another sincere goal here. And that is to help people understand what an amazing thing they will be doing for themselves if they use consistently scheduled therapeutic massage as a preventative technique to help them manage pain.

     When you get massage on a regular schedule, the beneficial effects that you gain will build with each session. It will have a cumulative effect. You all probably have experienced how pain builds on itself and continues to get worse if not treated. Well, if you consistently treat pain, the positive effects of that treatment can also build.

     In your everyday life, you experience a variety of different stresses. Stress causes your muscles to tighten (contract). Too much stress can cause too much contracting. Too much contracting has multiple detrimental effects, among them high blood pressure and stress on the joints. When muscles are tight, they are placing a lot of force on other structures of the body, such as joints, blood vessels and nerves. That force not only causes pain, but it can wear down protective structures such as the discs in your spine. That force can raise your blood pressure and lead to heart disease. That force can cause inflammation in your joints. The body tries to protect itself from too much force in any way that it can, which often leads to imbalance.  If you have a chronic illness caused by stress, you KNOW what it does to your quality of life.

     Now, think about what your quality of life would be like if you had less pain. I can’t take away all the stress in your life, but I can help you to experience the benefits of relaxation. Massage can help by loosening tight muscles and toning lax muscles, thereby helping to create balance in the body. Balanced muscles will not exert excessive force on other structures in your body. Believe me when I say that balanced muscles feel so much better than unbalanced muscles!

Studies have shown that massage reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body.

 It also increases white blood cells, which play a major role in your immune system and fighting off illness.

It also increases oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, all of which make you feel good. 

Studies have also shown that there is a cumulative effect of the benefits, when you continue with regularly scheduled sessions.

      And you might keep this in mind too…massage is a NON-invasive method of dealing with pain.

     Just a note here about what I’m talking about when I say “consistent” massage. This can vary from person to person and from situation to situation. At the least, a monthly massage would be very good for you, but if you can manage bi-weekly or even weekly, I’m sure you will not regret the investment of time and money. People ask me how often I receive massage. Since opening my private office, I have been able to be fairly consistent in getting a massage every other week, and I can honestly say that I feel like I can function so much better than when I was not consistent.  I would love for all of you to be able to experience the benefits of regular massage appointments. I hope you will give it some serious consideration.

     *I know that affordability is an issue for many people, so please check out my plan (HERE) to help make regular appointment affordable.

Oxytocin instead of Oxycontin!

Oxytocin instead of  OxyContin!

Did you know?

Oxytocin is a hormone released by your own body that helps you feel good.

OxyContin is an opiate painkiller that can be highly addictive.

So, maybe you’d like to try a little Oxytocin before you resort to OxyContin. How?

I bet you can guess what I’m going to say.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Oxytocin is released during massage!

And as a bonus, a rise in Oxytocin levels can relieve pain!

There are studies going on that are showing the part that Oxytocin may be playing in reducing stress and anxiety levels.  Be sure to go do a little research about it if I’ve sparked your interest. It’s actually pretty fascinating!

Oxycontin

Oxytocin

 

 

**********************************************************************

Come in to Juniper Therapeutic Massage and try out the Integrated Massage  or the Orthopedic Neck Treatment that I offer…

*Integrated Massage :

Integrated Massage takes into account what your needs are based on discussion between you and your therapist. A few of the techniques that may be used in your session include: the traditional relaxation massage, deep tissue techniques, stretching, hot or cold therapy, trigger point therapy, deep breathing, and energy work.

 

*Orthopedic Neck Treatment (80 minute minimum)

This treatment focuses the whole session on the neck, upper back, and chest using special orthopedic techniques. Hot stones and ice massage may be included. It is recommended that this treatment be done for several weeks in a row, with a treatment at least once a week, followed by a maintenance schedule of once a month.

Massage can help arthritis pain!

Arthritis is a PAIN! Massage can help to manage the pain!

Research supports the idea that regular massage helps manage arthritis pain and stiffness, and helps to improve functioning of the joints. If you are interested in reading about some of the research in this area just head on over to the website for the Touch Research Institute.

I think the most interesting aspect of this idea is that massage can help to break the pain cycle. Pain makes it harder to sleep and harder to move. When you don’t get enough good sleep and/or you don’t move enough, that leads to more pain. Pain makes it harder to sleep and harder to move. And on and on and on and on! If you live with pain, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about! 

You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response. That is the sympathetic nervous system kicking in. BUT, there is also the parasympathetic nervous system which is otherwise known as the “rest and digest” system. When you get a massage, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks into gear.

Increased parasympathetic nervous system activity=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain!

Also, when you get a massage your body produces more of a hormone called Oxytocin, that makes you feel good. (Massage also decreases certain stress hormones).

Increase of good hormones=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain!

 

 

So, the only thing left to say is:

Give massage a try!

 

 

Pain and Movement

Fascia. It seems to be a pretty hot topic lately. Books, articles and papers abound on the topic. I’m not here to give you all of the expert nitty gritty on the subject, but I would like to tell you why I think it is important to you.

What is fascia? Simply put, fascia is a thin layer of tissue that covers and connects absolutely EVERYTHING inside of your body.

Why is fascia important to you? Because healthy fascia greatly helps with the management of pain.  

Movement contributes to healthy fascia. From my perspective, since one of the main functions of muscles is heat production, when you move your muscles, you are heating up the fascia. When fascia is heated up it turns into a gel-like state that makes it much easier to move. (That’s called “Thixotropy” for all you word nerds out there).

When your body does not move enough, the fascia thickens and becomes more restrictive. Have you ever worn an item of clothing that is too restrictive? At first, it may be just a little bit uncomfortable, but eventually it actually starts to hurt, right? That’s the way with unhealthy fascia. It can lead to pain in much the same way. Imagine tight fascia squeeeeeezing all your muscles, bones, organs, nerves, etc., etc.

Fascia is like a web that connects everything throughout your entire body.  So, if fascia is a little tight in one area of the body, it will be pulling on fascia in other parts of the body, causing increasingly more pain.

So, what’s the main point here? You guessed it! Keep moving everyone!

 

Another almost shameless plug for massage:

Massage can also help to heat up and stretch the fascia.  So get massage frequently and move daily!  (Just be sure there is a variety of movement, because repetitive movement can also do damage).

Of course, movement and massage are not the only factors in maintaining healthy fascia, but that is a topic for another day.