!n order to understand the benefits and effects of massage, it is important to consider how the body responds physiologically.
Massage involves two types of responses:
- mechanical responses as a result of pressure and movement as the soft tissues are manipulated
- reflex responses in which the nerves respond to stimulation.
The Physiological Effects of Massage
Effects on the Skeletal System
- Massage can help increase joint mobility by reducing any thickening of the connective tissue and helping to release restrictions in the facia.
- It helps to free adhesions, break down scar tissue and decrease inflammation. As a result it can help to restore range of motion to stiff joints.
- Massage improves muscle tone and balance, reducing the physical stress placed on bones and joints.
Effects on the Muscular System
- Massage relieves muscular tightness, stiffness, spasms and restrictions in the muscle tissue.
- It increases flexibility in the muscles due to muscular relaxation.
- It increases blood circulation bringing more oxygen and nutrients into the muscle. This reduces muscle fatigue and soreness.
- It promotes rapid removal of toxins and waste products from the muscle.
Effects on the Cardiovascular System
- improve circulation by mechanically assisting the venous flow of blood back to the heart
- dilate blood vessels helping them to work more efficiently
- produce an enhanced blood flow; delivery of fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissues is improved and the removal of waste products, toxins and carbon dioxide is hastened via the venous system
- help temporarily to decrease blood pressure, due to dilation of capillaries
- decrease the heart rate due to relaxation
- reduce ischaemia (ischaemia is a reduction in the flow of blood to body parts, often marked by pain and tissue dysfunction).
Effects on the Lymphatic System
Massage helps to:
- reduce oedema (excess fluid in the tissue) by increasing lymphatic drainage and the removal of waste from the system
- regular massage may help to strengthen the immune system, due to increase in white blood cells.
Effects on the Nervous System
- Massage stimulates sensory receptors: this can either stimulate or soothe nerves depending on the techniques used.
- It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping promote relaxation and the reduction of stress.
- Massage helps to reduce pain by the release of endorphins (endorphins are also known to elevate the mood).
Effects on the Skin
Massage can bring about:
- improved circulation to the skin, increased nutrition to the cells and encouraging cell regeneration
- increased production of sweat from the sweat glands, helping to excrete urea and waste products through the skin
- vaso-dilation of the surface capillaries helping to improve the skin’s colour
- improved elasticity of the skin
- increased sebum production, helping to improve the skin’s suppleness and resistance to infection.
Effects on the Respiratory System
- Massage deepens respiration and improves lung capacity by relaxing any tightness in the respiratory muscles.
- It also slows down the rate of respiration due to the reduced stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system
Effects on the Digestive System
- increase peristalsis in the large intestine, helping to relieve constipation, colic and gas
- promote the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates digestion.
Effects on the Urinary System
- Massage increases urinary output due to the increased circulation and lymph drainage from the tissues.
The Physiological Effects of Massage
Massage can help to:
- reduce stress and anxiety by relaxing both mind and body
- create a feeling of well-being and enhanced self-esteem
- promote positive body awareness and an improved body image through relaxation
- ease emotional trauma through relaxation