The Physiological Effects of Massage

In order to understand the benefits and effects of massage, it is important to consider how the body responds physiologically.

Effects on the Skeletal System

  • Increases joint mobility by reducing thickening of the connective tissue and helping to release restrictions in the fascia.
  • 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.
  • Improves muscle tone and balance, reducing the physical stress placed on bones and joints.

Effects on the Muscular System

  • Relieves muscular tightness, stiffness, spasms and restrictions in the muscle tissue.
  • Increases flexibility in the muscles due to muscular relaxation.
  • Increases blood circulation bringing more oxygen and nutrients into the muscle. This reduces muscle fatigue and soreness.
  • Promotes rapid removal of toxins and waste products from the muscle.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

  • Improves circulation by mechanically assisting the venous flow of blood back to the heart
  • Dilates blood vessels helping them to work more efficiently
  • Enhances 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
  • Temporarily lowers blood pressure, due to dilation of capillaries
  • Lowers heart rate due to relaxation
  • Reduces 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

  • Reduces oedema (excess fluid in the tissue) by increasing lymphatic drainage and the removal of waste from the system
  • Strengthens the immune system, due to increase in white blood cells.

Effects on the Nervous System

  • Stimulates sensory receptors: this can either stimulate or soothe nerves depending on the techniques used.
  • Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping promote relaxation and the reduction of stress.
  • Reduces pain by the release of endorphins (endorphins are also known to elevate the mood).

Effects on the Skin

  • Improves circulation to the skin, increasing nutrition to the cells and encouraging cell regeneration
  • Increases production of sweat from the sweat glands, helping to excrete urea and waste products through the skin
  • Promotes vaso-dilation of the surface capillaries helping to improve the skin’s colour
  • Improved elasticity of the skin
  • Increases sebum production, helping to improve the skin’s suppleness and resistance to infection.

Effects on the Respiratory System

  • Deepens respiration and improves lung capacity by relaxing any tightness in the respiratory muscles.
  • Slows down the rate of respiration due to the reduced stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system

Effects on the Digestive System

  • Increases peristalsis in the large intestine, helping to relieve constipation, colic and gas
  • Promotes the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates digestion.

Effects on the Urinary System

  • Increases urinary output due to the increased circulation and lymph drainage from the tissues.


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