Therapeutic massage

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Last Medical Review: April 7, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Luis Alberto Vallejo
What is Therapeutic Massage Therapy? (April 7, 2020)
Therapeutic Massage (April 7, 2020)

At all times and anywhere in the world, massage is as old as humanity; With only a few warm and skilled hands it is possible to transmit a state of well-being through massage.

From the moment we begin to take a tour in history to determine the origin of massage as such and not as therapy, we fall into the first error, since massage is a therapy per se. There are many milestones that confirm the existence of civilizations that used massage as a therapeutic means, such events generated the propagation of such subtle art and science at the same time.

The healing force of massage is known everywhere and is scientifically proven.

Sometimes, the day to day becomes stressful. The pressure of work, crisis in the family or in the relationship, are just some personal triggers that distress the body and soul. In these moments it is necessary to give a few seconds to sensory pleasure and body relief.

The more we get stressed, the harder it is for the body to restore the nerves and hormones to their normal state. For this reason whenever we can, we must take the necessary measures to take a break. In this way, we can protect ourselves from the exhaustion of work and recharge energy.

The word massage has different roots that lead to a clear purpose, which is to provide a physical contact between two individuals, “Massech” of the Hebrew which means to touch or feel, as well as “Massein” of the Greek that denotes the main action, which is to rub, in addition to these two peoples there is the root of the Gallic people, “Masser” which in French is a verb that literally means kneading or massaging, being France one of the pioneers of the Western world in the use of manual therapies.

According to this epistemology, it can be ensured that the Massage Therapy is included in kinesitherapy, not only because it is a healing medium, but also because it implies movement, a displacement of both the physiotherapist’s hands and a synchronicity in friction which is generated in the tissues underlying the manipulated area. This set of interventions forms one of the oldest therapeutic means in the world, precisely because of its way of applying, since it is a purely instinctive process, it is not necessary to have advanced knowledge in said art. It is enough to see how a mother “rubs” her son’s knee when she sees that she has fallen or the simple touch of consolation on a person who is going through difficult times, but it is the experience and the appropriate knowledge of certain techniques that catapult the Therapeutic massage.

Any person can give a massage by giving it, without worrying in what direction it does, if the heat it causes is normal, if the color or appearance of the skin changes as a result of its manipulation, if it should cause pain or something as simple as the duration, that is why it is only the physical therapist training that allows to control these elements that are intrinsic to the technique.


The word massage has different definitions depending on the author’s approach.

Some speak of such as a tactile language established through the skin and that at the same time can be interpreted as the action of repairing the human body through movement, as Rawlins mentions. While in the field of Physical Therapy the physiotherapist Dr. Martha points out as “the set of manipulations of soft tissues, on an area or in the whole body, in order to cause modifications of therapeutic order”.

It should be noted that the massage as such can be done by any type of person and for that reason unwanted effects can occur, due to this, it is recommended that it is a professional in the field that applies the massage, since you will have the knowledge due to the anatomy physiological behavior of the human body in the face of certain manipulations, as well as the constant search for the well-being of the patient from the biopsychosocial point of view as the main objective of his therapy, thus the concept of massage is extended a little more, saying that this:

“It is a manual therapy aimed at producing a series of controlled physiological reactions, in the musculoskeletal system and/or other body systems, which lead to the therapeutic relief of the individual to be treated”

Effects of the Massage Therapy

According to Menell, massage has three effects:

  • Reflex: the reflex effect is activated even with a superficial massage, which produces effects on the autonomic nervous system due to stimuli emitted by the terminations that exist in our skin  
  • Mechanic: This, this presents when generating a pressure on the tissues, whatever, will produce circulatory physiological responses such as arterial filling or venous drainage, metabolic by the segregation of substances, muscle at the level of contraction or relaxation and related nerves largely with the direction of the stimulus.  
  • The late effect occurs once certain violent pressures and stimuli are applied, combined late or secondary reactions will occur in various systems, after a certain time.

In specific areas:

– On the skin:

  • Temperature increase
  • Skin exfoliation
  • Elimination of desquamative cells
  • Stimulates fluid reabsorption
  • Activates sweat and sebaceous glands.

– On the muscles:

  • Improves oxygenation and irrigation which leads to improve muscle trophism
  • Facilitates the disposal of waste substances
  • Eliminate catabolites

– About circulation:

  • Improves circulation by vasodilation that causes tissue friction
  • Increase blood oxygen levels
  • Histamine and acetylcholine release (substances that influence the effects of relaxation, well-being and pain reduction)
  • Facilitates venous return

– About the nervous system

  • Anesthesia (eliminates or decreases pain)
  • Excites nodal endings

Cado-cephalic and cephalocaudal effect

When performing a massage, the direction in which it will be done must be taken into account since its physiological effects will depend on this and specifically those that affect the nervous system, for this it is necessary to understand how the reflex arc works in the proprioceptive reflexes of our organism.

At the moment in which it is going to be massaged it is already clear what the area to be treated will be, the receiver, which will inherently be an organ, when applying this stimulus, this will be sent by afferent sensory neuron and at the time of the synapse a response will be provoked either of an inhibitory or facilitating nature that travels through an efferent motor neuron to the muscle that ends up being the effector organ.

So that the facilitated response will be given as the gamma neurons emit axons to the contractile fibers of the muscle spindle, which when excited are contracted, this after having done the stimulation in a caudocephalic manner. While the golgi tendon organs are the fusiform receptors of the tendon spindles, that is, tension receptors, they will be responsible for the inhibitory effect on the alpha motor neuron interrupting the contraction of that muscle that was generating more and more tension, producing relaxation thanks to a cephalocaudal manipulation of the area to be treated.

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