Physiological Effects Of massage in Physiotherapy

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Massage is used as a therapeutic modality to treat pain, swelling, muscle sprains, restricted movement, tension, and anxiety caused by a variety of disorders affecting the muscular, nervous, cardiorespiratory, and other systems.

Massage's therapeutic value stems from its numerous and synergistic physiological effects. The effect of body massage is highly dependent on technique. Massage, whether manual or mechanical, applies pressure to and mechanically stimulates the various tissues that are approached during the application of a technique. It refers to the amount, duration, and direction of force applied during the massage.

Massage's physiological effects can be divided into the following categories:

  1.  Effects on the circulatory system 
  2.  Effects on blood
  3.  Effects on the exchange of nutritive elements
  4.  Effects on metabolism
  5.  Effects on the nervous system
  6.  Effects on the mobility of the soft tissue
  7.  Effects on the respiratory system
  8.  Effects on the skin
  9.  Effects on the adipose tissue
  10.  Psychological effects
  11.  Effects on the immune system.
1. On the Circulation of the Venous and Lymphatic Systems: The mechanical emptying of the veins and lymphatics is aided by massage. It promotes the forward movement of venous blood and lymph, reducing the risk of blood and lymph stagnation in the tissue space. The skeletal muscles contract, compressing the blood vessels and exerting pressure on the fluid inside. The smooth muscles that line the inside of the vessels contract in response to the increase in intravascular pressure. Smooth muscle contraction raises the pressure inside the vessels even more. When the pressure rises above a certain level, the valves open and the pressure drops.

2. On the Arterial Flow: Massage increases the blood supply to the massaged area. After the massage, there is usually noticeable vasodilation as well as an increase in peripheral blood flow. The following events that occur during massage may be responsible for the moderate, consistent, and definite increase in arterial flow.

• Vasodilators are released; the axon reflex is activated, and venous congestion is reduced.


Massage encourages the removal of waste products and the replenishment of nutrients. Massage also improves the flow of liquids and gases throughout the body.

Physiological effects of massage at a glance

• ↑Venous and lymphatic flow. 
• ↑Arterial blood flow to the muscle and skin. 
• ↓Stagnation of fluid in tissue space. 
• ↑Removal of waste products of metabolism. 
• ↑WBC, RBC, and platelets count in circulating blood. 
• ↑Nutritive exchange between blood and cells.
 • ↑Trophic status of the part massaged. 
• Induce sedation. 
• ↓Pain. 
• Facilitate contraction in the hypotonic muscle. 
• ↓Excitability of motoneuronal pool in a neurologically healthy person. 
• Modulate autonomic response. 
• ↑Electroderma response or GSR. 
• ↑Removal of secretion from the lung.
 • ↑Gaseous exchanges across pulmonary capillaries.
• ↑Removal of dead cells from the skin.
• ↑activity of sweat and sebaceous gland.
• Modulate psychosomatic arousal.
• Mobilise soft tissue. 
• Break the soft tissue adhesions.
• Accelerate various metabolic processes.
• Promote lipolysis.


Massage has a significant effect on certain properties of the soft tissues like elasticity, plasticity and mobility. The tissues which can be affected by massage include muscles, sheath, ligaments, tendons, aponeurosis, joint capsules, and superficial as well as deep fascia.

 The different maneuver of massage stretches the constituent collagen fibers of these tissues in different directions. The adhesions present between fibers are broken and maximum mobility between fibers and adjacent structures is ensured.

The main function of a muscle is to contract. When a muscle contracts, not only its length reduces but the width of muscle also increases. Cyriax refers to this phenomenon as the broadening out of muscle and states that the full mobility of muscle in broadening out must be maintained in order to achieve adequate shortening of muscles. Different massage maneuvers especially transverse friction mechanically separate the glued muscle fibers and restores mobility.

The fibrin formed within the chronic indurated structures following chronic or subacute inflammation can effectively be stretched and mobilized during pressure manipulations. This way massage maintains and restores the mobility of soft tissues as well as prevents adhesion formation, joint stiffness, contracture, etc.

Physiological Effects Of massage in Physiotherapy

Strengthening of a muscle can only be achieved by the active contraction of a muscle. Massage, at best, can prepare the muscle for contraction by increasing circulation and facilitating the removal of metabolic waste.


  1. Great post! Thank you so much. I really need these tips. The detailed explanation is really helpful. Seeing how you write was very inspiring.
    -Best Deep Tissue Massage

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