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What is a Nociceptor? & How can Massage help?

How does pain occur in the body and how does massage help?

A nociceptor ("pain receptor") is a sensory neuron that responds to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli by sending “possible threat” signals to the spinal cord and the brain. If the brain perceives the threat as credible, it creates the sensation of pain to direct attention to the body part, so the threat can hopefully be mitigated; this process is called nociception.

In clinical research examining the effects of massage on exercise-induced muscle damage, Mark Tarnopolsky, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, along with colleagues demonstrate that massage reduces levels of inflammatory cytokines known to activate peripheral nociceptors and produce hyperalgesia (hyperalgesia-an enhanced pain response.)

The authors suggest that massage may reduce pain as well as nsaids. “From a pain reduction perspective, it is likely that the two are fairly comparable,” wrote Tarnopolsky in a prepared statement about the work. “It is unclear if there are any side effects from a massage, but on balance it is likely that they would be less than the known side effects from anti-inflammatories leading to gastrointestinal upset,” he said.

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