Massage and the Body Systems


Massage is beneficial for a variety of conditions.


Physiological and Psychological Effects of Massage


  • relieve stress and tension and promote relaxation
  • stimulate mental and physical fatigue
  • relieve muscle fatigue and soreness
  • relax painful stiff muscles and prepare and warm muscles prior specific activities (pre-performance or event)
  • relieve or reduce areas of swelling
  • stimulate and soften areas of cellulite
  • improve digestion and relieve constipation
  • improve condition and tone of the skin
  • relieve pain and stiffness in specific areas, particularly in the upper and lower back


Effect of Massage on the Lymphatic System


  • The flow of lymph in the lymphatic vessels is speeded up. As the hands move along in the direction of lymph drainage to the nearest group of lymphatic nodes, the speed of lymph flow is increased. Massage strokes are directed towards the nearest set of lymphatic nodes.
  • Pressure on the tissues will facilitate the transfer of fluid across vessel walls. Fluid from the tissues will pass into the lymphatic vessels and will drain away more quickly; this will prevent or reduce swelling of the tissues


Effects of Massage on Blood Circulation


  • Massage will relieve pain and stiffness by flushing out metabolic waste and relieving pressure on the capillaries, which restores free flow of blood within the tissues
  • Massage is thought to increase the blood flow through the area being treated, i.e. it produces hyperemia (increased blood supply) and erythema (reddening of the skin).
  • Massage increases the supply of fresh oxygenated blood to the part. As the deoxygenated blood is moved along, the capillaries empty and fresh oxygenated blood flows into them more quickly. The nutrients and oxygen nourish the tissues and aid tissue recovery and repair.
  • Massage dilates superficial arterioles and capillaries, which improves the exchange of substances in and out of cells via tissue fluid. This will improve the metabolic rate, which in turn, will improve the condition of the tissues.


Effect of Massage on the Skin


  • Massage improves the condition of the skin as the increased blood supply increases the delivery of nutrients and oxygen and speeds up the removal of metabolic waste.
  • The color of skin is improved. Massage produces dilatation of surface capillaries which result in hyperemia and erythema and improved color of sallow skin.
  • The oil or cream used as a medium lubricates and soften the skin


Effects of Massage on Muscle tissue


  • Massage aids the relaxation of muscles, due to the warmth created, reflex response and removal of accumulated waste.
  • Massage will reduce pain, stiffness and muscle fatigue produced by the accumulation of waste following anaerobic contraction. The removal of this waste i.e. lactic acid and carbon dioxide, is speeded up and normal function is more quickly restored. The increased nutrients and oxygen will also facilitate tissue repair and recovery.
  • The elasticity of muscles is improved as the manipulations stretch the fibres and separate the bundles. Any restricting fibrous adhesion are broken down and any tight fascia surrounding the bundles are stretched, allowing muscle fibres to function normally.
  • Massage will break down adhesion and fibrosis nodules that may have developed within the muscle as a result of tension, poor posture or injury.


Psychological effects of massage


  • It creates feeling of well-being and health.
  • It promotes feeling of vigor and increases energy.
  • It increases postural awareness.
  • It promotes feeling of being cared for and cosseted, which in turn promote relaxation, contentment and satisfaction.
  • It reduces mental stress, which also enhances feelings of contentment and relaxation.


Effect of Massage on the Nervous System


  • Slow rhythmical massage produces a soothing sedative effect on sensory nerve endings, promoting general relaxation.
  • Vigorous brisk massage will have a stimulating effect, producing feeling of vigor and glow.
  • If the massage technique is too poor or too heavy, the pain sensors in the skin will be stimulated. Painful manipulations will increase tension, which is counter-productive, and care must be taken to avoid this. Similarly if movements are too light i.e. barely touching the skin or tickling, this will have an irritating effect that will also increase tension and must be avoided.