The healing massage is a collection of mechanical effects on the skin and underlying tissues. It is performed by special techniques of the masseur (manually or by a special device) for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes. Sports massage is applied in a similar way, but on healthy people and not so strictly dosed. Experimental studies on the biological action of mechanical stimuli, including massage, show that under their influence physicochemical changes occur in cells, regardless of the strength of the stimulus. This affects the vital functions carried by cellular colloids.
Similar phenomena are observed not only in epithelial but also in connective tissue, muscle and nerve cells. The massage causes mechanical irritation of the body surface, not only on the skin, but also on the other tissues available for the massage action: subcutaneous tissue, fascia, muscles, periosteum, and in some cases on the internal organs. These irritations cause responses in the human body. When properly dosed, they lead to positive healing reactions, in case of overdose – to damage, and in case of insufficient strength they remain without effect.
Under the influence of dosed mechanical irritation in the body various reactions occur:
The most immediate reaction is the local mechanical action – dispersal of tissue fluids (swelling), stretching of the skin;
The main action is the reflex, ie. – The receptor apparatus receives the stimulus and sends impulses to the central nervous system. From there, a nervous response is obtained both to the tissues that are massaged and to other distant places connected by nerve to the massaged area and giving a specific reaction – response to irritation. For example, under the influence of massage the skin becomes red reflexively, the muscles are toned or relaxed (relaxed) depending on the technique, but within a given segment, a certain internal organ is also affected;
Along with the above factors, massage also has a humoral effect, ie. – the mechanical irritation of the tissues leads to the production of biologically active substances in them, having a pronounced physiological effect on the tissues from which they are separated. Once in the blood and lymph, these substances are distributed throughout the body, affecting it.
The physiological effect of massage on various organs and systems is as follows: The effect of massage on the nervous system is characterized by a certain two-phase. Weak, slightly massaging movements act during the phase of transient arousal (sometimes imperceptible) suppressing the peripheral nerves and their ends. Therefore, with sufficient duration, a light massage reduces nervous excitability and can sometimes lead to complete elimination of moderate pain (analgesic effect). With regard to the cerebral cortex, short-term mechanical stimuli also give a temporary arousing effect, and with a longer duration – the development of a delayed process and drowsiness.
Intensively applied massage is very irritating and causes long-lasting arousal. The effect of massage on the circulatory system is manifested primarily on the lymphatic circulation. At rest, the lymph in the limbs does not move. After the massage, the lymph flow increases, which makes the massage a wonderful means of dispersing infiltrates, edema, transudates and exudates. Massage also affects blood circulation.
Massage, especially by stroking in the direction of venous and lymphatic flow, facilitates the emptying of the veins and creates a negative pressure in them, which helps to strengthen the arterial flow. Nevertheless, the dilation of the arterial and capillary network is caused by reflex. There is a pronounced capillarization, ie. – opening of numerous spare capillaries.
In connection with this, a number of favorable changes in fat metabolism, nutrition (trophism) and regeneration processes follow. Histamine (a biologically active substance) formed in the skin also takes part in the mechanism of vasodilation. In this way, conditions are created for the elimination of congestion and for regulating the distribution of blood. The blood supply to the heart also improves, as the heart rate increases and slows down.
In general massage, blood pressure shows small fluctuations, most often a temporary increase, and sometimes a decrease depending on individual characteristics, type and dosage of massage. The effect on the skin is mainly determined by the skin-vascular reaction. Active hyperemia (blood filling) of the skin is manifested by visible redness and increase in skin temperature by 0.5C. As a result of hyperemia, trophic processes improve, the skin becomes more elastic, with better turgor and greater resistance to temperature and mechanical influences.
The massage also improves the elasticity of the scar tissue (scar – scar from a wound). Nevertheless, mechanical exfoliation of degenerated epidermal cells frees the skin pores and improves skin respiration (skin respiration, excretion of water vapor and gases from the body). The effect of the massage on the musculoskeletal system is also explained by the improved lymph and blood circulation. The effect of massage on atrophic and tired muscles is especially pronounced. Its effect on healthy muscles is insignificant. The muscle fibers of atrophied muscles under the influence of massage quickly thicken and increase in volume and weight, and muscle strength increases. Deeper muscle massage leads to a reflex increase in the tone and contractility of muscle fibers.
Massage soothes the regeneration of damaged bone tissue. As a result of the massage, general changes occur throughout the body – improvement of appetite, sleep and self-esteem and weakening of neurotic complaints. These changes are explained by the reflex effect on the central nervous system and the increase in metabolism. The increase in gas (oxidation processes and carbon dioxide emissions), nitrogen and water exchange is clearly expressed. The effect of massage on fat metabolism is normalizing, due to which the weight of obese people decreases and the weight of thin people increases.
In connection with the improved blood supply to the kidneys, the diuresis (the daily amount of urine) also increases, especially when massaging the lower extremities. Immediately or soon after the massage, other changes in the body are observed – increased sectoral functions (salivary, gastrointestinal, liver-bile, lowering of blood sugar).