Skip to main content

Endorphins and Pain

  • Chapter
Hormones and the Brain

Abstract

Pain is the behavioural response to external or internal noxious stimuli. Clinical pain is very different from experimental pain and it is proposed that pain forms a hierarchy starting with activation of sensory fibres or internal clues and terminating with processing in the CNS at various levels. It is the affective component of pain which is influenced by morphine, and not the sensory thresholds. Endorphins should be expected to have an action similar to morphine, and experimental evidence is in keeping with this contention.

Three different areas relating to endorphins and pain are reviewed. Firstly, evidence is given that endorphins may be responsible for adaptation to pain, either congenital or acquired, as well as to diurnal changes in pain sensitivity. It is possible, in fact, that endorphins have a more general role in sensory adaptation. Secondly, some evidence suggests that endorphins are released in acute trauma and may play a protective role, for instance in parturition. Finally, endorphins seem to be involved in chronic pain. Patients with chronic neurogenic pain frequently show low levels of endorphins in their cerebrospinal fluid. These low levels may be raised by acupuncture with pain relief as a result. The relief of pain is reversed by the narcotic antagonist naloxone. These observations converge on one point, that endorphins play an important modulatory role and inadequate endorphin activity leads to pathologic changes.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

eBook
USD 9.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 54.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Almay, B. G. L., Johansson, F., von Knorring, L., Sedvall, G. and Terenius, L. (1980). Relationships between CSF levels of endorphins and monoamine metabolites in chronic pain patients.Psychopharmacology, 67, 139

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Almay. B. G. L.. Johansson. F.. von Knorring. L.. Terenius. L. and Wahlstrom. A. (1978). Endorphins in chronic pain. I. Differences in CSF endorphin levels between organic and psychogenic pain syndromes. Pain. 5. 153

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bloom, F., Battenberg, E., Rossier, J.. Ling, N. and Guillemin, R. (1978). Neurons containing β-endorphin in rat brain exist separately from those containing enkephalin: Immunocyto-chemical studies. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (Wash.). 75. 1591

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bonica, J. J. (1979). Paper presented at the International Symposium on Pain. June 11–15. Sorrento

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis, G. C., Buchsbaum, M. S. and Bunney, W. E.. Jr. (1978). Naloxone decreases diurnal variation in pain sensitivity and somatosensory evoked potentials. Life Sci.. 23. 1449

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Frederickson, R. C. A., Burgis, V. and Edwards, J. D. (1977). Hyperalgesia induced by naloxone follows diurnal rhythm in responsivity to painful stimuli. Science. 198. 756

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Glynn, C. J., Lloyd, J. W., and Folkard, S., (1976). The diurnal variation in perception of pain. Proc. R. Soc. Med., 69. 369

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hertz, A., Albus, L., Metys, J., Schubert, P. and Teschemacher, H. (1970). On the central sites for the antinociceptive action of morphine and fentanyl. Neuropharmacology. 9. 539

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hetta, J. and Terenius, L. (1980). Prenatal naloxone affects survival and morphine sensitivity of rat offspring. Neurosci. Lett., 16, 323

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hökfelt, T., Ljungdahl, Å., Terenius, L. Elde, R. and Nilsson, G. (1977). Immunohistochemical analysis of peptide pathways possibly related to pain and analgesia: Enkephalin and substance P. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (Wash.). 74. 3081

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jaffé, J. H. (1975). Drug addiction and drug abuse. In L. S. Goodman and A. Gilman (eds). The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, pp. 284–324. (London: Macmillan)

    Google Scholar 

  • Johansson, F.. Almay, B. G. L., von Knorring, L., Terenius, L. and Aström, M. (1979). Personality traits in chronic pain patients related to endorphin levels of CSF. Psychiatr. Res., 1,231

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • von Knorring, L., Almay, B. G. L., Johansson, F. and Terenius, L. (1979). Endorphins in CSF of chronic pain patients in relation to augmenting-reducing response in visual averaged evoked response. Neuropsychobiology, 5, 322

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • von Knorring, L.. Almay, B. G. L.. Johansson, F. and Terenius, L. (1978). Pain perception and endorphin levels in cerebrospinal fluid. Pain. 5. 359

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lassen, N. A., Ingvar, D. H. and Skinhøj, E. (1978). Brain function and blood flow. Sci. Am., 239. 50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Levine, J. D., Gordon, N. C., Bornstein, J. E. and Fields, H. L. (1979). The role of pain in placebo analgesia. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (Wash.), 76, 3528

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Levine, J. D., Gordon, N. C. and Fields, H. L. (1978a). The mechanism of placebo analgesia. Lancet , 2. 654

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Levine, J. D., Gordon, N. C., Jones, R. T. and Fields, H. L. (1978b). The narcotic antagonist naloxone enhances clinical pain. Nature . 272. 826

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Liebeskind, J. C. and Paul, L. A. (1977). Psychological and physiological mechanisms of pain. Ann. Rev. Psychol., 28, 41

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lombard, M. C., Nashold, B. S. and Albe-Fessard, D. (1979). Deafferentation hypersensitivity in the rat after dorsal rhizotomy: A possible animal model of chronic pain. Pain. 6. 163

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Melzack, R. (1973). The Puzzle of Pain. (New York: Basic Books)

    Google Scholar 

  • Rogers, E. J. and Vilkin. B. (1978). Diurnal variation in sensory and pain thresholds correlated with mood states. J. Clin. Psychiatry , 39, 431

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sjölund, B. H. and Eriksson, M. B. E. (1979). The influence of naloxone on analgesia produced by peripheral conditioning stimulation. Brain Res.. 173. 295

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sjölund, B., Terenius, L. and Eriksson, M. (1977). Increased cerebrospinal fluid levels of endorphins after electro-acupuncture. Acta Physiol. Scand.. 100. 382

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, S. H. and Simantov, R. (1977). The opiate receptor and opioid peptides. J. Neurochem.. 28, 13

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Terenius, L. (1978). Endogenous peptides and analgesia. Ann. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol.. 18. 189

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Terenius, L. and Wahlström, A. (1975). Morphine-like ligand for opiate receptors in human CSF. Life Sci., 16, 1759

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Thrush, D. C. (1973). Autonomic dysfunction in four patients with congenital insensitivity to pain. Brain , 96, 591

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tsou, K. and Jang, C. S. (1964). Studies on the site of analgesic action of morphine by intracerebral microinjection. Sci. Sinica. 8. 1099

    Google Scholar 

  • Wall, P. D. (1979). On the relation of injury to pain. Pain. 6. 253

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Watson, S. J. and Akil, H. (1980). On the multiplicity of active substances in single neurons: β-endorphin and α-melanocyte stimulating hormone as a model system. In D. de Wied and P. A. van Keep (eds.). Hormones and the Brain. (Lancaster: MTP Press)

    Google Scholar 

  • Yaksh, T. L. and Rudy, T. A. (1976). Analgesia mediated by a direct spinal action of narcotics. Science . 192, 1357

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 1980 MTP Press Limited

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Terenius, L. (1980). Endorphins and Pain. In: Hormones and the Brain. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-8709-8_19

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-8709-8_19

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-94-009-8711-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-009-8709-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive

Publish with us

Policies and ethics