Endorphins. You’ve heard of them. You know they’re good for you. You probably even know that high levels of endorphins can increase happiness and “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands” – AmIright, all my Elle Woods fans? Come on, I can’t be the only one who thinks of that line when endorphins are mentioned!
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
So, what exactly are endorphins, you may find yourself wondering..? And how do they impact our emotional state of well-being? Does exercise really increase endorphins? If that is the case, what else increases endorphins, or decreases them, for that matter. Let’s explore, shall we?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, endorphins are defined as: “any of a group of endogenous peptides (such as enkephalin) found especially in the brain that bind chiefly to opiate receptors and produce some pharmacological effects (such as pain relief) like those of opiates”.
In other words, they’re a hormone released in the brain that helps calm the body and can even promote pleasure, similar to how painkillers work. In fact, vocabulary.com states that “the word endorphin is a blend of “endogenous” (meaning “inside the body”) and “morphine” (a medication that relieves pain),” which is why endorphins are known as “natural painkillers.”
Endorphins also play a role in the central nervous system, as they are neurotransmitters, passing along signals from one neuron to another. It’s sorta like when you played telephone as a kid, and you had to pass along the message from one person to the next until it reached the last person, then they would state the message out loud. Usually it would be some tainted version of the original – giving everyone a good laugh and making the game super fun. Endorphins, on the other hand, pass along the correct message every time. There are no jumbled messages with endorphins – boring for the game, great for our bodies!
Now that we know what endorphins are, why then, are they good for you? Oh goodie, I was hoping you’d ask! Think of things that are pleasurable to you. Good food, perhaps? A delicious glass of wine. A relaxing massage, possibly? Or maybe its something more adventurous, such as a hike in the mountains, running on the beach or watching your favorite sports team score a point. Cue endorphins.
Endorphins tell us when something is good or pleasurable…like that glass of wine or a yummy piece of chocolate. They also let us know when we’ve had too much of a good thing and signal us to stop or slow down. It’s how we know we’re full, for example. On the other hand, since we know what is pleasurable to us, endorphins encourage us to pursue those things in order to feel that sense of pleasure again. Craving that second piece of chocolate? You can thank your endorphins.
In addition to eating chocolate, here are some other awesome benefits of endorphins:
Preventing depression -exercise, yes the so-called ‘runners high’ is a thing!, releases endorphins which have been linked to decrease levels of depression.
Confidence booster – positive vibes only! As positive feelings can make you feel better, they’re a great source of self esteem.
Childbirth – clearly, a stressful scenario for the body, endorphins kick in to help calm and alleviate some of the pain during labor.
By now, we all know that exercise is a great way to release endorphins, however, you gotta be willing to work for it! I’m talking full on heart pounding, beast mode, run for miles upon miles type of workouts. So, what if the ‘runners high’ isn’t your cup of tea? Running can just be … So. Much. Work. Aren’t there other ways of triggering endorphins? Well, lucky you, because the answer is yes!
A much more relaxing way to increase endorphins is by touch. More specifically, massage therapy. Ever wonder why massages feel so good? It’s your endorphins kicking in. When getting a massage, hormones are released within the body – endorphins included – allowing you to unwind, relax and let the sensation of pleasure sink in. Shoot – I’m feeling relaxed just thinking about it! ‘Runners high’ without the run? Count me in!
But what if I told you there is another way, somewhat similar to massage therapy, that’ll help you achieve endorphin bliss? Enter Reiki. Say what?!? Let me explain.
“Reiki is a gentle, non-invasive, spiritually-based, Japanese healing system for maintaining and restoring health and wellness of body, mind, and spirit”
- Elise Brenner, Reiki master teacher & owner of Brenner Reiki Healing
Reiki is part of the “Relaxation Response,” according to Harvard Medical School’s Herbert Benson. Similar to how massage therapy works, increased levels of blood flow are sent to the brain and therefore cause muscles and organs to slow down. In response, there is an upswing in release of endorphins. Or in other words: Pure bliss, my friends, pure bliss.
Still looking for other ways to increase those endorphin levels? Try the following:
– eat chocolate
– create music
– eat spicy foods
In closing, let’s recap, shall we? Endorphins are hormones in the body that respond to stress or pain by calming or relaxing the body. They’re also triggered by pleasure, letting us know when we enjoy something and when we’ve had our fill. They inspire us to chase after those pleasures in order to achieve the satisfactory feeling they first left us with. Endorphins give us a ‘natural high’ without the addiction caused by conventional drugs. Arguably the most widely known from their effects on runners, aka ‘runners high’, endorphin levels are increased by anything pleasurable to you. So go for that afternoon walk, book that massage, eat that piece of chocolate or drink that glass of wine …. And then go thank your endorphins for those warm fuzzy feelings!
Tom Scheve “What are endorphins?” 22 June 2009. HowStuffWorks.com. https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/endorphins.htm 30 October 2019
Jacquelyn Cafasso “Why do we need endorphins?” 11 July 2017. Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/health/endorphins#purpose 30 October 2019
Crystal Raypole “13 Ways to Increase Endorphins” 27 September 2019. Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-endorphins 30 October 2019
Jamie Ducharme “What is Reiki?” 18 September 2013. BostonMagazine.com https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2013/09/18/what-is-reiki/ 30 October 2019
Legally Blonde. Dir. Robert Luketic. MGM. 2001. Film.
“This project is such a headache!”
They’re so common that the term has become synonymous with an annoyance, but what are headaches, really? And can massage therapy really help?
Different types, different causes.
Headaches are pretty easily defined, and we all know one when we feel it: it’s a pain in the head. But not all headaches are created equal.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with pain occurring on both sides of the head without other symptoms. The pain can range from very mild to severe.
Migraine headaches are often pulsing, and can be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and hallucinations. Some people experience migraines only rarely, while other people experience them on an almost daily basis.
Cluster headaches are less common, and are generally experienced as severe pain around one eye. “Cluster periods,” during which many headaches occur during a period of time, are interspersed with longer periods without any symptoms.
Secondary headaches are not conditions themselves, but are symptoms of other conditions. These conditions can be as everyday as a sinus infection or conjunctivitis (pink-eye), or more serious, like traumatic brain injury or meningitis. While the pain from secondary headaches can be managed, it’s important to focus on getting the appropriate medical treatment for the underlying condition.
Headaches and massage
Tension headaches, the type of headaches people are most likely to experience, seem to respond well to massage therapy. Not only does massage seem to reduce pain in the moment, but regular massage therapy also appears to increase the amount of time between headaches for those who experience them on a chronic basis. This could be a result of helping to manage stress or underlying mechanical issues that can result in headaches, but there’s no solid science yet on precisely why massage helps, only that it does.
More good news! It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that folks who experience regular headaches are also more likely to experience high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Studies have found that massage can help with these issues not just in the general population, but also specifically in people who live with chronic headaches.
Some people with secondary headaches can also benefit from massage. People with fibromyalgia, for example, who often experience headaches as part of their condition, can experience both pain and stress relief with regular massage therapy. While massage during a flare-up of symptoms may need to be modified to be more gentle, some people find that it can provide relief both for headache as well as for pain throughout the body.
Massage therapy is wonderful and often helpful, but it’s not a cure for headaches. While some people just need a bit of rest or a drink of water (dehydration is a surprisingly common headache cause), other people continue to experience headaches all their lives. While people who experience headaches caused by stress or muscular tension can absolutely benefit from massage, migraines triggered by things like foods or hormonal changes probably won’t see an impact.
There are some times when getting a massage for headaches isn’t just unhelpful, it’s actually dangerous. Most often, this is related to secondary headaches. Fevers, as an example, often cause headaches as well as achy joints that could lead someone to want to receive massage, but this not only risks overly stressing a body that’s already fighting off an infection, it also has the possibility of spreading the illness to the massage therapist and anyone else they come into contact with. Headaches resulting from a recent head, neck, or back injury could also be made worse by a well-meaning massage therapist.
When there is the possibility of pain being caused by an illness or injury, it’s always best to seek out a physician’s opinion first. They can provide or recommend appropriate care for the issue causing the headache in the first place, and at that point you can ask them about whether it would be a good idea to receive a massage. Safe is always better than sorry!
Headaches can be a real, well, headache. But there’s help.
Sometimes a little change of environment is all that’s needed. If you have a headache and have been hunched over a computer for hours, try a stretch. A quick walk outside or a brief nap can help with a headache caused by eye strain. If you haven’t eaten or drunk anything all day, do that. It’s easy to get caught up in the business of our lives and forget to take care of our own basic needs.
For those who can take them, over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful in treating a headache. Sometimes caffeine is recommended as well. For stronger headaches, medications prescribed by a physician can be a lifesaver to many people, enabling them to function at work and with their families when they might otherwise have been left incapacitated.
And then there’s massage therapy, of course. It’s not a magical cure-all, but for many people, it really does help manage the pain and stress of headaches. Are you one of them? Schedule your next massage, and let’s find out together.
Cancel if you are sick.
Cool, we’re done here.
Nah, we’ve got a bunch more to cover. There are lots of variables to being sick. What does that even mean and why does it matter? Let’s dig in.
What is ‘sick’?
For determining your ability to receive massage, ‘sick’ means one or any combination of the following:
- Fever and related symptoms
- Unusual fatigue
- Respiratory issues
- Very runny and/or stuffy sinuses
- Sore throat
- GI issues
If you have any of the above happening, it’s best to cancel.
Massage isn’t going to help you get better
A sick body needs rest. Receiving massage is an active task. Massage causes change in the body and your body has to work to maintain stability. Getting a massage when you are sick takes attention away from rest and recovery. That’s not helping.
You’re not going to be cozy on the massage table. Sure, it sounds like a warm squishy massage table would be great. But the moment you put your already-stuffy head into that face cradle, you’ll realize the error of your ways. Gravity and pressure are not your friend here. Even if I do a great face massage to drain your sinuses, you’ll likely feel worse when you get off the table.
If you’re feeling at all dizzy or loopy, laying face down can make that sensation even worse. Remember getting ‘the spins’ when you drank a little too much? That. Only worse because you’ll be worried about puking on my office carpet and not just your terrible dorm comforter.
There is often some gray area, especially if you are in the recovery phase of a virus or bacterial infection. You may have that lingering dry cough well past the stage of contagion or actual illness. Or you could have seasonal allergies that make you a runny mess.
If you’re unsure about your situation, please call before your appointment and we can make a decision together.
It’s really, really easy to spread those germs
If you come in sick, you may get me (and my other clients) sick. Even with the best handwashing, coughing into your elbow, and precision skills depositing your dirty tissue into the trash bin, you’re likely to leave a few germs hanging in the air and I’m likely to breathe them in.
Fun fact, when you sneeze the little droplets of doom can travel up to 8 meters and can stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes. Yikes.
There’s a lot we just can’t control about cold and flu season. We may have been exposed without knowing and be contagious for a few days before symptoms show up. That’s just part of living in a world with other people. But we can control where we go and who we see while we are symptomatic. I know it’s a bummer to delay your massage, it’s also the right thing to do when you are contagious.
By the way how do you know if you are contagious?
You already know the best ways to stay healthy through cold and flu season. (But I’ll remind you.) Wash your hands (a lot!), get enough sleep, and get out into the fresh air when possible.
If you feel something coming on, do your best to cancel whatever you can, keep your activities to a bare minimum and just rest. Stay hydrated. Ask for help. That’s hard to do, but worth the effort.
Here’s to staying healthy through this season and the whole year!
Contraindication is a long word with a simple meaning: a reason you shouldn’t receive a particular treatment, such as a massage. There are local contraindications—things like a small wound—that shouldn’t be massaged directly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a perfectly good massage on other parts of your body. Then there are general contraindications, or situations in which you shouldn’t get a massage at all. Contraindications can be an illness like the flu, a treatment or medication like a strong blood thinner, or even something environmental, like a bedbug infestation at home.
But there’s another kind of contraindication that also seems to make the rounds on a regular basis: the mythological kind. Despite all the scientific advancements we’ve made in studying massage therapy over the years, there are a few persistent misunderstandings that just won’t seem to die. And while tales of mermaids and unicorns can brighten an otherwise dull day, these massage myths unfortunately prevent too many people from getting the professional bodywork they deserve. Here are four myths you’ll be glad to know are busted!
Myth #1: You can’t get a massage during the first trimester of pregnancy.
This myth is based around the idea that there is an acupressure point around the ankles that can induce premature labor. Since the first three months of pregnancy are also the time of the highest risk of miscarriage, the wisdom goes, it’s best not to get a massage at all during this time.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account the fact that pregnant women regularly do all sorts of things that put pressure on the ankles.
Like wear shoes.
And given that most people go at least a few weeks before they’re even aware that they’ve conceived, this is basically saying that anyone with the sort of working parts that could lead to pregnancy should stay away from the massage table, just in case.
Luckily, there’s no evidence for any of this. Still, it’s a good practice to give your massage therapist a heads up if you know that you’re pregnant so that they can be prepared to make adjustments for things like loosening ligaments or a sudden sensitivity to smells.
Myth #2: You can’t get a massage while taking painkillers.
You’re hurting, so you schedule a massage. But then you’re still hurting, so you take some ibuprofen … should that stop you?
This myth states that taking a painkiller leaves you unable to tell whether your massage is too deep, which can lead to a massage therapist injuring you accidentally. And this can be a realistic concern, especially if you’re taking strong narcotics for pain. Drug side effects like dizziness, easy bruising, and low blood pressure can also impact your massage session.
In most cases, though, this can be dealt with through open communication, rather than avoidance, especially if it’s a simple NSAID or other over-the-counter medication. When you let your massage therapist know what kinds of painkillers you’re taking, things like pressure, positioning, and duration can all be adjusted to make sure that your session is both satisfying and safe. There is no reason that painkillers and appropriate bodywork have to be mutually exclusive.
Myth #3: You can’t get a massage while breastfeeding.
This myth is so insidious, because nobody needs a massage more than postpartum parents. The idea behind this misunderstanding is the belief that massage somehow squeezes toxins out of a person’s tissues, which are then released into the bloodstream. Since the body is “toxic” after a massage, the story goes, so is any breast milk produced at this time. The choice is between “pumping and dumping” after receiving bodywork, or avoiding massage therapy altogether until the child is weaned.
Fortunately, this isn’t even one of those half-true-but-it’s-complicated situations; it’s 100% false, no question. Normal cell byproducts are filtered by the body and are not a danger to breastmilk, massage doesn’t release toxins, and massage can improve depression, body image, and (perhaps most importantly to new parents) SLEEP.
Myth #4: You can’t get a massage if you weigh too little or too much.
There are so many variations of this one. Skinny people don’t have enough “meat on their bones” to get a massage, they’ll just bruise. Overweight people can’t get a “real” massage because there’s too much fat between their skin and their muscles. People without perfect bodies shouldn’t show their skin to anyone. (And so on. Blah, blah, blah.)
Big people like massage. Small people like massage. In-between people like massage. And massage therapists love providing massage to all kinds of people. It’s a perfect combination! Are there different techniques better suited to bodies with specific needs? Of course. Is weight or size a prohibitive factor? Absolutely not! Not by a long shot. The folks who make these kinds of arguments in the name of “health” are either misinformed or just being mean.
Massage myths aren’t usually malicious, but they can still hurt.
Who knows how many people avoid getting a massage due to some myth they heard from a source they trusted? If you’re one of them, why wait? Since you now know truth from tale, get that bodywork you’ve been dreaming of and schedule your appointment today.
What to expect during your first massage,
Prior to your appointment we will email you an intake form to complete. If no email is given we will have one for you when you arrive at the office. After arriving for your appointment we will go over the information provided on your intake form. We will talk about why you’re coming in for a massage and what your goals are for the session. Are you having pain? Do you need to relax?
We will then show you the massage room and walk you through the massage process. We’ll leave the room so you may undress, get on the massage table, and get comfortable under the draping sheet & blanket.
Most massage techniques are traditionally performed with the client unclothed; however, what you wear it is entirely up to you. Simply put: bottom undergarments can be left on or taken off. You will be properly draped throughout the massage.
Depending on the issues we’re planning to address, We may start the massage on your legs, on your back, or maybe on your neck and shoulders. We use a light, coconut or jojoba based oil to allow your muscles to be massaged without causing excessive friction to the skin. We have scented essential oils that can be added to your massage for a small charge. We also offer Hot Stone and Eco-Fin add on services for a small charge.
During the massage
It’s great if you can let your body relax and sink into the table. If we need to move your arms or legs, etc, we’ll do the work! This does take practice.
It’s really important for you to tell us if any massage techniques we use causes pain. Pain is not okay. ‘No pain, no gain’ is a common misconception. However, there may be a certain level of discomfort or ‘good ache’ if we’re working on a problem area. It’s important that you tell us about that, too, so we can tailor the massage to be most effective without causing injury.
We’ll check in with you as we go, but please speak up if you become too warm or too cool, if you are not comfortable on the table, or need another pillow, or if you just hate the music!
After the massage
You should expect to feel mellow and relaxed after your massage. If we addressed pain issues, you may immediately feel a reduction in pain, or it may take a day or two before you feel that relief. If you are ever very sore following a massage, (it’s rare, but it can happen) please call us so we can discuss the best course of action, and so that we can make notes to adjust your next massage.
We hope you enjoy your massage! You can schedule online anytime by clicking the button below!