Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced by the brain and spinal cord. They are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression Endorphins bind to pain receptors in the brain to block or reduce the perception of pain – similar to the function of morphine or codeine drugs. Not only are endorphins thought to block the sensation of pain, but they also work to lower stress levels and support the immune system. The release of endorphins also stimulates a feeling of “euphoria” which is a positive, energetic feeling similar to that following a working out!
Exercising is one way you can release your endorphins. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain. When you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising and eventually happy.
Inquire with one of our physiotherapists to discuss other treatment techniques we use to stimulate endorphin release and manage pain.