According to Mohri, Fumoto, et al. in the journal Pain 118 (2005) 35-40, the rhythmic behavior of chewing suppresses nociceptive [i.e., pain-sensing] responses via the 5-HT descending inhibitory pathway.
In August of 2008, the Wrigley Science Institute reported, via Eurekalert:
"An investigation into the effects of gum chewing on mood and cortisol levels during psychological stress," to be presented at the 2008 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, found that chewing gum helped relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress among individuals in a laboratory setting.* The study examined whether chewing gum is capable of reducing induced anxiety and/or acute psychological stress while participants performed a battery of 'multi-tasking' activities. The use of chewing gum was associated with higher alertness, reduced anxiety and stress, and improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.
Even though the research is funded by the Wrigley company, it looks like a good study, and the reason it interests me is that I've discovered that chewing gum works to relieve the frankly debilitating neck and head pain that has been plaguing me for a number of years. In fact, it works as well as a muscle relaxant combined with an opiate and/or prescription strength ibuprofen. Has anyone else had a similar experience?
Update: I had assumed that the pain relief
I experienced was just the result of the relaxation function of the
chewing, but apparently there's more to it. According to Mohri, Fumoto et al. in a medical jounal called Pain (2005): "the rhythmic behavior of chewing suppresses nociceptive responses via the 5-HT descending inhibitory pathway." (Nociceptive means pain-sensing.)