To understand the therapeutic effect of massage, it is necessary to start from a concept of the Greek Hippocratic school: Vis medicatrix naturae, which refers to the innate capacity of the organism for its own healing. The proposal is not that massage cures diseases, but it does stimulate the body’s natural mechanisms for accelerating healing (like most really effective and efficient therapies).
Massage plays a crucial role in muscle nutrition, which is very important for recovery in neuromuscular work capacity. This process is due to improved metabolism in the muscles and acetylcholine, released by proprioceptive stimulation, which raises the transmission speed of nerve excitation to muscle fibers. The muscular vessels are dilated by the release of histamine, increasing the temperature of the tissues undergoing massage which activates the processes of glucogenolysis and gluconeogenesis thus increasing the rate of contraction of muscles.
This translates into a reduction in fatigue, faster recovery from fatigue and more effective muscle activity and coordination by improving neuromuscular maintenance capacity. Massage also relaxes tense muscles, which in turn stop exerting pressure on the lymphatic and blood vessels, helping to expel histamine and adrenaline (chemical elements that cause muscle fatigue). It then has a selective calming effect, because by eliminating waste cells causes the venous and capillary systems to open, simultaneously entering large amounts of oxygen and nutrients, which will greatly improve the functional state of the muscles.
This is why massage helps to achieve greater muscle strength, reduces muscle aches and pains and also the intensity of post-exercise pain.
It is remarkable how positive results are noted not only on a physical level but also on a psycho-emotional level. This is exemplified by the high number of illnesses in which we mention improvements in depression, stress and anxiety of the patient. Massage does not return to the body, it transcends it. It is a holistic therapy, and that is what makes it all the more important. Consider psycho-emotional conditions in which massage has been studied to have a very fruitful therapeutic effect:
Aggressiveness: Reduces hostile feelings and calms the subject.
Anorexia: Reduces anxiety and stress, reduces displeasure to the body and improves proprioception.
Inpatient Anxiety and Depression: reduces and improves sleep time.
Autism: Decreases stereotypical behavior, improves social relationship, lowers aversion to touch, improves attention orientation and reduces sleep problems.
Bulimia: Improves behavior and decreases anxiety and depression.
Depression: Decreases anxiety, stress and heart rate.
Another transcendental application of massage therapy, which requires both the bodily and psycho-emotional benefits, is in surgical patients. It is extremely valuable in them because it reduces complications by reducing anxiety and stress, and improving blood pressure and pulse. Also in the post-surgical period it improves mobility, decreases postoperative pain and reduces nausea and vomiting.