Massage and Endorphins

Massage and Endorphins

There are literally hundreds of references to massage contributing to the release of endorphins on web sites on the worldwide web. However, when it comes to valid, reliable, double blind studies, evidence is severely lacking. Despite the lack of research, the positive benefits of endorphins on health are indisputable.

The Study of endorphins and their impact on the human body is very recent. Scientists discovered endorphins ("endogenous morphine") in the mid-seventies, and found that these neurotransmitters in the brain have pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. There are three major types of endorphins: beta-endorphins, found primarily in the pituitary gland; and enkephalins and dynorphin, both distributed throughout the nervous system. When endorphins attach to opiate receptor neurons, they reduce the intensity of pain in the human body by naturally block pain signals produced by the nervous system.

Recent studies suggest that endorphins enhance the immune system, relieve pain, reduce stress, and retard the aging process. Scientists also have found that beta-endorphins can activate human NK (Natural Killer) cells and boost the immune system against diseases and kill cancer cells.  The physiological result of the endorphin release mechanism is one of deep relaxation--respiration slows down, heart rate decreased, eyes dilate, blood is shunted from the extremities to the body's core--which improves digestion and venous flow to the internal organs. Lymphatic speeds up and this increased the excretion of waste and toxins from the body.

Besides behaving as a pain regulator, endorphins are also thought to be connected to physiological processes including euphoric feelings, appetite modulation, and the release of sex hormones. Endorphin research suggests that there is a link between emotions and a healthy immune system. So pleasant memories, exercise, sexual activity, laughter, and even pursuing dangerous activity are all ways we can increase our levels of endorphins and therefore help individuals benefit from their own natural chemicals.

During massage, large amounts of endorphins are released into the bloodstream. This explains the slightly groggy effect, lightheaded, sense of well-being. Famed Victorian physician Dr. Dowse, remarked in 1887: "The mind, which before massage is in a perturbed, restless, vacillating, and even despondent state, becomes calm, quiet, peaceful, and subdued after massage. In fact, the wearied and worried mind has been converted into a mind restful, placid, and refreshed.

Candace Pert, the founder of endorphins, is enthusiastic about the release of endorphins during massage. "From my research with endorphins, I know the power of touch to stimulate and regulate our natural chemicals, the ones that are tailored to act at precisely the right times in exactly the appropriate dosages to maximize our feelings of health and well-being."