Mechanisms of action of classic massage

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Manual skills and mechanisms of action of classic massage

Each manual action always produces physiological changes through two types of action (present in different proportions based on the manual ability):


  1. direct or mechanical action: physical stimulus produced directly on tissues and organs
  2. indirect or neuroreflex action: stimulation of the nerve receptors of the skin, connective tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint capsule, which transmit the stimulus to the CNS, which responds by causing physiological changes of the reflex type even on organs far from the direct stimulation point.
  • Superficial touch. It is performed with the hand or both hands sliding on the skin, with the long fingers together and the thumb abducted; the pressure exerted is equivalent to that of a caress. It serves to distribute the lubricant and is the reassuring first contact. Highlights cutaneous-vascular anomalies and restricted areas.
  • Supported brushing: it is performed like the superficial brushing but with a much greater pressure. If slow, it has a muscle relaxant and psycho-relaxing effect (neuroreflex action on the vegetative nervous system), drainage, peeling (elimination of dead cells of the stratum corneum), while if performed quickly it causes hyperemia with an increase in local temperature, muscle tone and level of attention (increased brain rhythms).
  • Clutch. It is performed with the hand, with the long fingers together and the adducted thumb or with the fingers only (according to the areas to be treated), by making rotations, without slipping, on the skin, so that the subcutis slides on the underlying tissues. Its effect is the reabsorption of interstitial fluids (eliminates edema, hematomas and catabolites) and the resolution of adherent layers (for exogenous or endogenous traumas such as muscle tears).
  • Kneading or squeezing. A compression of the muscle is performed by: pressure of the hand and counter-pressure of the underlying bone, pressure of one hand and counter-pressure of the other, pressure of the thumb and counter-pressure of the long fingers of the same hand or of the other hand . If performed in deep mode it has the effect of decreasing muscle tone and, by neuroreflex action, of brain activities, with antispasmotic and circulation improvement effects (important analgesic effect in cases of rheumatic or fatigue contractures) and relaxing. If performed in superficial mode (pincè roulè, palpé roulè) it acts as a hyperemizer and resolves cases of superficial adherent layers.
  • Shaking. It is performed with a hand that grasps the muscle belly, between thumb and long fingers together, and makes a transverse movement with respect to the underlying bone segment, of the "come and go" type. It has a draining effect and, if mild, relaxing or invigorating, and "awakening" if energetic.
  • Rolling. It is performed with both hands, with the long hyperextended fingers and the adducted thumb, which grasp the muscle and give it "come and go" twists around the bone axis. The effects are the same as those of the shaking but more marked. It also has a fibrolytic action on muscle micro-scars and various adhesions.
  • Cup beating. It is performed with the hands, with the semi-flexed fingers and the adducted thumb (as in the act of drinking from a fountain), which alternately strike the muscle so as to have, as effects, an increase in arterial circulation (hyperemia), in muscle tone and the level of attention (manual skills useful for example as a preparation just before a sporting gesture).
  • Ulnar and fist percussion. It is performed with the hands, with slightly semi-flexed fingers, for ulnar percussion, or flexed, for fist percussion, which strike the muscle alternately with, respectively, the ulnar area of ​​the fifth finger or the fifth metacarpal. The effects are the same as the cup beats, with a greater mechanical effect on the subcutaneous loose connective tissues, due to the vibratory effect.
  • Vibration. It is performed with the fingertips that deeply impress a vibratory wave, with a high → low direction or tangential to the skin. In the first case (high → low direction), the effects are: increased muscle tone and peristalsis, if performed in the intestine. In the second case (tangential direction to the skin), there is instead a normalization of the density of the fundamental substance of the subcutaneous lax connective tissues.
  • Pinching. It is carried out using the first fingers with the hands which, alternating rhythmically, lift a skin fold. The effect results in hyperemia and an increase in local sensitivity (by vasomotor neuroreflex action), useful in the treatment of hypoesthesia (lowering of sensitivity due to trauma to the peripheral nervous system).



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