About Pain

getting to the root of the problem

Most chronic pain is caused due to damage from an injury or illness, problems with posture, and conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

Pain is felt as a result of the brain's response to electrical (neural) and chemical (hormonal) changes in the body as a result of damage, disease or injury. Signals from damage or injury are picked up by sensory receptors in nerve endings. The nerves then transmit the signal via the nerves leading from from the injury to the spinal cord, then into the brain where the signal is interpreted as pain. Pain is a self-protective mechanism which forces us to move away from danger, and afterwards, to rest the injured part, giving the body the chance to heal itself.

The nervous system
It is important to have some understanding of the way the nervous system is arranged in order to use massage and pressure points effectively as a means of relieving pain.

The diagram below shows the major nerve pathways that carry nerve signals to the brain. The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system which between them co-ordinate and integrate all neural responses. All other nerves form the peripheral nervous system which includes spinal nerves, cranial nerves and the autonomic nervous system.

From the spinal cord branch the 31 pairs of spinal nerves which pass out from the vertebral canal through the spaces between the vertebrae. Each nerve has 2 roots, the anterior which carries motor nerve fibres, and the posterior which carries sensory impulses. As both leave the spinal cord, the form a mixed spinal nerve on either side of the spinal column.

The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system which regulates our body functions without our conscious control (such as heart beat, sweating, digestion). The autonomic nervous system is subdivided into the parasympathetic nervous system (which comprises of nerves which leave the brain and lower part of the spinal cord, supporting mainly the blood vessels and organs), and the sympathetic nervous system (nerves which leave the spinal cord from the thoracic and lumbar regions serving blood vessels, the heart, lungs, intestines, sweat glands, salivary glands and the genitals). Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems often work together antagonistically in that the oppose each other in order to regulate body activities.

How does stimulating the pain nerve pathway work?
By stimulating the nerve carrying a pain signal to the brain, the therapist is interfering with the pain signal. This prevents the effective transmission of the signal reaching the brain properly so signals which would normally be interpreted as pain can be modified and the perception of pain decreased. The underlying cause of the pain however, will not be affected. This is sometimes referred to as the Pain gate mechanism or theory.

The Pain Gate Control Theory
The Gate Control Theory was initially proposed in 1965 by Melzack and Wall based on the fact that small diameter nerve fibres carry pain stimuli through a 'gate mechanism' but larger diameter nerve fibres going through the same gate can inhibit the transmission of the smaller nerves carrying the pain signal. Chemicals released as a response to the pain stimuli also influence whether the gate is open or closed for the brain to receive the pain signal. This lead to the theory that the pain signals can be interfered with by stimulating the periphery of the pain site, the appropriate signal-carrying nerves at the spinal cord, or particular corresponding areas in the brain stem or cerebral cortex. Complementary Therapists need to concern themselves with the first 2 options in order to effectively modify the pain signal.

It is generally recognised that the 'Pain gate' can be shut by stimulating nerves responsible for carrying the touch signal (mechaoreceptors) which enables the relief of pain through massage techniques, rubbing, and also the application of wheat bags and ice packs.

The Gate can also be shut by stimulating the release of endogenous opioids which are opioid (pain-relieving) type chemicals released by the body in response to pain stimuli. Acupuncture and electrical analgesia (TENS) is thought to stimulate their release as a response to stimulation, the opioids then inhibiting the transmission of pain signals in the substantia gelatinosa part of the spinal cord - what is often referred to as the spinal root part of the nerve.

How can massage help?
Often when we have a minor injury, it helps to 'rub it better'. By stimulating the surrounding area, the pain seem less. This is an important concept when using massage to help combat pain. Electrotherapy, Acupuncture, Acupressure and Shiatsu use similar methods to relieve pain by stimulating nerve pathways in order to interrupt the pain signal to the brain. Traditional acupuncture and shiatsu uses the ancient meridian channels to restore the natural balance of energy called qi by applying needles or pressure on selected points along the meridian lines (energy channels) in the body. Modern acupuncture and shiatsu also works on or near the actual pain sites and follows more closely the nerve pathways which are similar to the meridian lines.

CAUTION: As already mentioned, pain is a warning that damage has occurred, therefore to directly massage an injured area risks further damage which is why massage and pressure techniques should not be used for acute pain (short term pain) or when the cause of the pain has not been properly established.

In some cases, pain is chronic (more persistent and has lasted a long time - for example, arthritic or rheumatic joints and some back problems). These types of pain are ideally suited for relief through using massage and pressure, including the use of TENS.
The modified pain response also includes the increased amount of endorphins
released as a result of the stimulation. Endorphins are the body's own natural pain killer and serve to further block the perception of pain in the brain.

What conditions are suitable for these sorts of pain relief?
Chronic (long term) pain for which there is little conventional relief.
Back pain
Muscle pain
Menstrual pain
Headaches due to posture and Neck problems
Pain from surgery or injury

CAUTION Avoid stimulation of the neck and heart areas, recent injury or trauma, and when the cause of pain has not been ascertained.
Muscle pain - although a short-lasting and acute pain, this is an exception to the non-massage rule. Muscle pain occurs when the waste by-products of exercise are trapped inside the muscle. After 48 hours, any localised bleed into the damaged tissue will have ceased and it is safe to help stimulate the circulation around the affected area in order to help the body eliminate the waste products from the tissues.

Bruising - the general rule is wait 48 hours before massage to ensure no further damage to the tissues. Heavy bruising should not be massaged directly, but by stimulating the surrounding area, circulation and healing can be encouraged.

Remember - pain is a warning sign STOP if the treatment is causing pain.

Finding relief
The individual can interrupt the transmission of pain signals to the brain by massaging or applying pressure to the specific sensory nerves which carry the pain signal from the affected area. This can be done by massaging or applying the pressure to the spinal side of the area, with further stimulation on or around the site (if tolerable).

Painful joints can be massaged above and below, with acupressure or TENS points applied to the relevant sensory nerves.

the PAIN, is in your brain ?




What is TENS?
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is a battery powered electrical unit which uses electrodes in the form of sticky patches placed onto the skin to deliver electrical impulses to the nerve fibres which lie underneath the skin surface. It is used to provide pain relief by blocking pain signals to the brain via the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system, and also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body's own pain relieving mechanism Usually the electrodes are placed around the pain area or on acupressure points. A slight tingling sensation will be felt during treatment which is not painful.

Side effects
Unlike medication, TENS does not produce side effects such as nausea or drowsiness. It can be administered while the client is going about normal activity and is not addictive. Occasionally the self-adhesive electrode patch sites can become irritated due to the adhesive but this can be overcome by using a different brand of patch.

What can TENS be used for?
TENS can be used to treat most types of pain where the cause has been determined including:

· Arthritis · Back Pain · Bruising · Calf Strain · Dead Leg · Fibrositis · Finger Pain · Headaches · Migraines · Knee Pain · Lumbago · Muscle Stress · Neck Pain · Neuralgia · Osteo-arthritis · Period Pains · Post Herpatic Neuralgia · Pregnancy/Labour Pains · Rheumatism · Sciatica· Shoulder Pain · Sleeplessness · Spondylosis · Sports Injuries · Tennis Elbow · Tenosynovitis · Wrist Pain

How is it used?
The standard TENS treatment (convention or high frequency settings) is performed when the Pulse Rate is set to 60 pulses per second or more. The sensation produced will be a steady buzzing or tingling feeling between the electrodes. Because the TENS signal is perceived as stronger than the pain signal being produced by the body, it effectively blocks the pain signal from travelling along nerves to the brain. Most clients find that high-frequency treatments produce the quickest relief from pain, as well as providing several hours of relief after the treatment.

Treatment duration - 30 - 60 minutes, or continuous if required. Some units are portable and can be clipped to the belt while going about normal activities.

Low-frequency or burst type of treatment is produced when the Pulse Rate setting on the TENS unit is set manually below 10 pulses per second (or as with some units, at automatic burst mode. Low-frequency treatments produce visible muscle twitching often described as a tapping or pulsating sensation. In reaction to this type of stimulation the body releases endorphins (pain-killing chemicals produced naturally in the body). These endorphins act as a chemical nerve block to reduce pain by interrupting the pain signals along the nerves to the brain. Often this type of treatment can take longer to be effective but the results last longer.
Treatments will last between 20 minutes to an hour. It involves the therapist asking questions to determine the source of pain before 2 - 4 small sticky pads are applied to the pain area or the surrounding site. The pads may have to be repositioned occasionally to find the best site to provide relief. Your therapist may want to find the most appropriate site for the pads by testing the area first with a smaller acupressure unit which works in the same way as the pads but can be moved around the area in order to find the best pain-relieving response.
The therapist then connects the patches to a small battery-powered unit which when switched on produces a small electrical current through the tissues underlying the skin. At first you will feel nothing, then as the frequency is turned up, you should begin to feel a tingling or numbing sensation. The tingling sensation is the electrical stimuli designed to interrupt the pain signal to the brain in the same way that rubbing an injury can provide some relief. It is important to realise that total pain relief may not be achieved, and you may not experience relief after the first treatment. If the first treatment does not work, subsequent treatments or repositioning the pads will help. It may take some time to find the right area to treat, but once the pads are in the right place, relief is found in 80-90% of cases.

TENS is safe, painless, and up to 90% effective in relieving chronic pain conditions

Treatment duration - up to 30 minutes to be effective and treatment can be repeated during the same day.

Position of the electrodes
Best results are achieved by placing the electrodes directly over the pain site. With dual machines, additional electrodes can be positioned to surround the site.

Electrodes can also be used to stimulate traditional acupressure points if required.

It is a natural way of stimulating your body to combat pain.

Some types of illness and pain are associated with imbalances in these biological electric and magnetic fields. Bioelectromagnetic therapy realigns the fields to correct imbalances and bring relief in a number of common conditions, including :

Arthritis, Joint and muscle pain, shoulder pain, back ache and neck ache, period pain and stress.

It sounds to simple to be true, yet it has been used for thousands of years. Any animal can be treated with magnetic therapy, which is why you will often see adverts for magnetic dog and horse collars.

Magnetotherapy is the application of magnets to the body to stimulate the nerves and create a better blood flow to various parts of the body. In turn, this helps the organs and glands to function better. Medicine itself is considered irrelalent as no medicine is orally fed or injected with magnetotherapy.

The results of magnetotherapy have helped the body's immune system to become stronger, the body to revive from crippling ailments such as arthritis, diabetes, high and low blood pressure, migraine headaches, pneumonia, rheumatism, and a host of common ailments.

As with all modes of healthy living, there is a responsibilty of eating right and exercising. Magnetotherapy may relieve stress and pain, but can't do its work without common sense in overall health maintenance.

In the most simple terms, bioelectromagnetic therapy helps to restore health by helping cells regain their natural electromagnetic frequency.

Magnetic therapy can act on nerve and muscle cells to relieve pain, relax tense muscles, improve the circulation and boost immunity. How does it work? No-one knows exactly how bioelectromagnetic therapy works, but there are several interesting theories. Restoring electro-magnetic balance:- Each cell acts as an electro-magnetic unit producing its own magnetic field. During health, cells vibrate with their own characteristic electromagnetic frequency. During disease, a cell's electromagnetic vibration changes. This effect is used to diagnose heart problems for example. During health, a heart trace (electrocardiogram or ECG) will show a particular pattern. If cells lack oxygen due to reduced blood flow in coronary heart disease, characteristic changes occur in the ECG that help to diagnose the problem.

What is "Reflexology"?
Foot and hand reflexology is a scientific art based on the premise that there are zones and reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all body parts. The physical act of applying specific pressures using thumb, finger and hand techniques result in stress reduction which causes a physiological change in the body.

What are "Healing Touch" & "Reiki"?
Healing Touch and Reiki are energy based therapeutic approaches to healing. They use touch to influence the energy field and energy centers, affecting the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and well being.

Why would I need Reflexology?
Reflexology reduces stress and tension.
Relieves pain.
Eliminates harmful toxins.
Promotes utilization of a healthy diet.
Assists in the healing of sports injuries.
Assists in the healing of post-operative surgery
Can reduce medication, which will be monitored and adjusted by your physician.
Good health maintenance.
Revitalizes and feels fantastic!


Shiatsu in Japanese means "finger pressure". The various techniques used in shiatsu massage almost all involve firm pressure to points and areas on the skin, known as meridian points these differ from Western Trigger points. Most of these points are the same as acupuncture, both arts are based on the same philosophy of medicine and are aimed at promoting better health by stimulating the flow of "Chi" or "Qi" energy.

The Chinese used a traditional therapy called Acupressure which was believed to strengthen the qi against 'external pathogens' - outside influences such as cold and damp which can influence the bodies immune function when defenses are low and can cause ill health.

Qi energy has been recognized for ages, wether referred to as Kundalini, Chi, Electro-magnetic energy, Orgone or the will of God. It circulates thru the body thru defined pathways just like the blood, lymph or nerve impulses. these pathways were charted in India, China and Japan thousands of years before the christian era.

The accuracy of these ancient charts and pathways can actually now be validated using todays technology to measure the electrical resistance on the surface of the skin.

ACUPRESUURE can help with the following:

1. Relieve stress and tension
2. Relax mind and body
3. Increase blood circulation
4. Aid in the removal of toxic wastes
5. Provide relief from head, neck and shoulder aches
6. Promote the healing of injuries
7. Increase energy levels
8. Increase overall feeling of well-being
9. Decreasing labor pains

The first formally recognized mention of 'qi' is in the Chinese writings of the Shang dynasty oracle bones which were produced between the 16th to 11th century B.C.Possibly the earliest evidence of use of the meridian system for health purposes has been found in Europe.

Today, research shows that acupressure enhances the immune function by stimulating blood cell production and shows complex changes in the parameters of the immune system.

The practice of acupressure is based on the meridian theory in which qi (pronounced chee) or vital energy, is believed to travel through precise pathways or meridians. There are twelve major meridians, each connected to a particular organ, plus eight special or "extra" meridians. There are also innumerable smaller meridians throughout the body.

The meridians connect the organs to each other and connect the interior of the body to the exterior. They actually form a sort of grid or road map of the entire bodily system. Acupressure is the practice of stimulating special junctures or "points" along these meridians, in order to affect the energy and balance of the body. Acupressure is said to "reduce what is excessive, increase what is deficient, warm what is cold, cool what is hot, circulate what is stagnant, move what is congealed, stabilize what is reckless, raise what is falling and lower what is rising."

Your Healing Response
Acu-Ki Institute
Pain is a warning of danger and a way to alert us to fix damaged parts of our body. Physical and emotional pain is an important message for health and survival. In response to pain we produce endorphins to kill the pain, increase the heart rate, change the blood pressure, increase the flow of toxins from the damaged area, and initiate a long series of internal healing processes. I call this the "Healing Response." Most of us take this process for granted. There is a revolution just ahead in medical science as we open these avenues of self healing. We are truly self healing organisms. We possess capacities and potentials that we have only begun to tap. These tools and techniques will allow you to begin exploring this healing process for yourself.

Acupuncture tricks the body into thinking it has been damaged by creating a small injury. In principle, this is very similar to our western tradition of vaccinations. When acupuncturists insert a needle, the body responds as if it has been cut. Most of the methods used by acupuncturists (including acupressure) simulate some kind of damage. Acupuncturists have tools to simulate damage by cutting, pressure, electricity, heat, ice, lasers, lights, magnets, scratching, and chemicals.

Acupressure is the application of pressure on specific points (using the fingers or acupressure tools) to trick the body to begin its Healing Response. Healing responses for a particular pain do not occur all over the body. We get the Healing Response just on the area of damage and along specific paths related to nerves and electrical lines called meridians. For example, endorphins (natural painkillers in the body) produce a numbing effect along these meridians. When you create pain by putting pressure on points, you are artificially starting all your body's healing mechanisms for that specific point and various symptoms related to that point. While the body is trying to heal the point of pain, it also heals specific symptoms. The more sensitive the points, and the more pain you create, the stronger the healing response (the body thinks it has been hurt more) and the better your results. When I press a point on my hand that is sore, the body is deadening the pain at the point at my hand, and along the meridian, going from my hand into the elbow, shoulder, neck, and head. It is also producing the Healing Response all along that meridian.

The key to making acupressure work is to know which points create the Healing Response for a particular problem. Knowing the problem determines which meridians are related and which points might help. If a point that relates to a problem is sore, that tells you it will create the Healing Response for that problem. The diagrams in this booklet and in our other publications contain the most recommended points as reported by over two hundred acupuncturists. The points that work best for you and how long it takes to get results are individual matters that you will work out for yourself.

The Stressaway Acupressure Program has been developed over decades of continuous research by the Acu-Ki Institute, whose mission is to teach self-healing through acupressure. You can find acupressure points here for over 4000 symptoms. Research with Stressaway Acupressure gets seventy-eight percent pain relief for most symptoms in just a few minutes. Headaches respond better to this program than any other symptom. Sixty-five percent of the people with headaches were pain free in about five minutes. The books and tools we offer are collected from hundreds of acupressure and acupuncture experts in order to bring you an understandable, effective, and easy to use acupressure system. Subscribe to the Free Journal of Acupressure and get free articles, tips, lessons, and e-book on Pain.

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