The effects of massage on the autonomic nervous system
Autonomic nervous system (ANS) has two parts: one part is sympathetic which is a stress response "fight or flight" and the second part is parasympathetic which is rest and digest, relaxation and calmness. These two parts are like the yin and yang of the body. The bodies response is dependent on the type of massage given. At the beginning of a massage the sympathetic part of the ANS will respond to the touch with a fight or flight response, once the client feels safe this will then trigger the parasympathetic effect and the client will start to relax. The effects of massage strokes
Touch is a very powerful tool in massage. How light or deep the touch is depends on what kind of massage you give your client. Touch should be in evasive and not cause any discomfort to the client. Holding the client is performed at the beginning and the end of the massage, this is to let the client know that you will be starting or leaving the body. This gives the client a sense of security.
Prepares the body for deeper massage. Effleurage begins at a comfortably fast pace and progresses into a slower more deeper massage and then back to a faster lighter pace. Effleurage is like a breaststroke movement on the body which triggers a parasympathetic response leaving the client feeling calm and relaxed.
Is kneading the body like you would with dough if you were to make bread. Kneading, cross-overs and wringing are different types of petrissage which effects the parasympathetic part of the ANS.
Using a firm palm or two thumbs side-by-side on the body and pressing into the body while massaging toward the heart stimulates the muscles causing the body to relax.
Tapotment effects the fight or flight part of the ANS. This is great for people who need to go back to work as it wakes the body up again. This is used by pounding, cupping and/or hacking the client after the massage and just before the touching/holding process used to end the massage.
Is used to wake up the nerves and sends a pulse through the body.
Other effects of massage
Salvo (2007), states that “Massage therapy and the response it creates within the body can affect the cardiovascular system, lymphatic and immune systems, skin and related structures, nervous and endocrine system, digestive system, and urinary system”. (p.88)
Massage increases blood flow in the body which helps carry nutrients and send oxygen around the body.
Salvo (2007), says that, “Lymph circulation depends on pressure: from muscle contraction, pressure changes in the thorax and abdomen during breathing or applied pressure from a massage. Hence, massage promotes this circulation”. (p.89)
Massage relieves muscle tension bringing the muscles back to their normal resting length. Deep tissue massage or sports massage will relieve any tightness in the muscles.
Massage on connective tissue can help prevent scar formation. This can also promote connective tissue healing.
People can sleep better after a massage. Getting massage at the end of the day can promote a good nights sleep in some-one with sleeping problems. As the parasympathetic part of the ANS is triggered the client will start to feel relaxed.
Massage can aid in the disposal of wastes and nutrients throughout the body.
Massage improves circulation in the body. Salvo (2007), states that, “Blood pressure is decreased by blood vessel dilation. Both diastolic and systolic readings decline and last approximately 40minutes after the massage”. (p.89)
Massage can reduce pain. Salvo (2007), says that, “General relaxation brought on by massage therapy also has a diminishing effect on pain”. (p.90)
Massage has a lot of positive effects via the ANS. It can reduce depression and anxiety. Long term regular massage will have long term positive effects.
The benefits of a 15minute chair massage can enhance alertness.
Clients become more satisfied with life and themselves.
Regular massage can have a positive effect on the relationship between the masseuse and the client. As the relationship grows over time there becomes a trust and a sense of security from the client and confidence in the masseuse begins to happen more easily.
Elluminate Sessions. (2009). Otago Polytechnic: Effects on massage.
Salvo, S.(2007). Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice. (3rd ed.) Missouri: Saunders.