Massage therapy, the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being, has a history extending back several thousand years. Massage was a part of many ancient cultures including that of the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Japanese, and Romans, and was often considered to be a medicinal practice.

Slide24Swedish massage is the most common form of massage in US, although it is not a pure form of therapy because most therapists integrate Swedish massage with other forms of touch therapy, such as acupressure. Swedish massage usually is given on a massage table, on the floor, or on a special massage chair and often with oil (vegetable or some aromatic oil). These oils are stroked and kneaded on all parts of the body. Smooth stroking and kneading-type movements are done up and down the back and across the shoulder muscles and the neck muscles and the backs of the legs, feet, arms, and hands (Massage 2004).

Interest in massage therapy has continued to grow among the scientific community and consumers. Currently, in US massage therapy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the expanding CAM therapy movement. Visits to massage therapists increased 36% between 1990 and 1997, with consumers now spending $4-6 billion annually for massage therapy , in pursuit of benefits such as improved circulation, relaxation, feelings of well-being, and reductions in anxiety and pain   (Massage; 2012).

Unknown-1Articles concerned with sports performance, exercise recovery, and injury management highlight the possibility that massage therapy may speed healing and reduce pain. The manipulations and pressure of massage therapy may break down subcutaneous adhesions and prevent fibrosis and promote circulation of blood and lymph, processes that may lead to reductions in pain associated with injury or strenuous exercise. The pressure applied to the body by massage therapy is thought to trigger certain physiological responses that ultimately result in beneficial outcomes (Massage theory; 2002).


Possible mechanism of beneficial effects of massage therapy: 

1. Gate control theory: The experience of pain can be reduced by competing stimuli such as pressure or cold, because of the fact that these stimuli travel along faster nervous system pathways than pain. Massage therapy performed with sufficient pressure would create a stimulus that interferes with the transmission of the pain stimuli to the brain, effectively closing the gateto the reception of pain before it can be processed (Gate control; 1965).

2. Autonomic nervous system: Massage therapy may provide its benefits by shifting the autonomic nervous system from a state of sympathetic response to a state of parasympathetic response. The pressure applied during massage therapy may stimulate vagal activity, which in turn leads to a reduction of stress hormones and physiological arousal, and a subsequent parasympathetic response. Thus, massage therapy may promote reductions in anxiety, depression, and pain that are consistent with a state of calmness.

3. Stimulation of OXT system: OXT is associated with a calm, relaxed state, and positive emotion. imagesPrevious studies showed that OXT levels in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid are increased in response to somatosensory nerve stimulation in humans (Uvnas-Moberg et al., 1993).

Human and animal studies suggested the anti-anxiety effect and anti-nociceptive effects of massage therapy are mediated via central release of OXT. Fifteen minutes of moderate pressure massage increased plasma OXT levels after being trusted and increased reciprocity, compared to untouched controls (Morhenna et al., 2008 ).

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