Do you remember when you were sick as a child and your mother would rub your back to help you feel better? Did you know that was not just a placebo effect, that there was a real physiological process happening to help sooth your misery? This process is called the Gateway Theory of Pain.
In order to understand this phenomenon, we need to understand the basics of the body’s Nervous System. The Nervous System is the most complex organ system in the body, not only is it our main internal communication system, but it monitors conditions inside and outside the body, integrates that sensory information, and coordinates voluntary and involuntary responses and movement.
The Nervous System
The Central Nervous System portion of the Nervous system consists of the Brain and Spinal Cord, which receive the incoming information, processes and integrates that information, decides what to do about it, and sends out a signal to the body to give a response.
Now back to our example of your mother’s healing touch. When you are feeling that upset stomach or fighting a fever, the pain receptors in your nervous system are sending signals up your nerves and into your spinal cord to be interpreted by the brain. When your mother rubs your back, the sensation is picked up by your nerve receptors which convey a pleasant signal to the brain, thus interrupting and modifying the pain signal on a spinal level. This is the Gateway Theory of Pain.
The Gateway Theory of pain is one of the ways Massage Therapy can make you feel better instantly. Even when a client is in pain, the pleasant sensation of touch can help the client feel better and relax, thus allowing the Massage Therapist to do their job.