Soft tissue massage therapy is a manual technique that claims to increase blood flow to treated areas. Surprisingly, little to no data exists to support this claim in the scientific literature.
A recent single-blinded prospective, longitudinal, controlled, repeated-measures design study was recently completed at Indiana State University which included twenty-eight participants (mean age, 23±3 years; 14 men and 14 women; mean calf girth, 39.5±4.31 cm; calf skinfold thickness, 27.9±5.6 cm) that measured skin temperature at baseline and after massage sessions, the theory being that increased temperature indicated increased blood flow to the massaged area.
Each participant received 10-minute treatments with massage on two separate sessions, with the untreated leg/calf as a control.
Baseline skin temperature of the calf was measured before treatment and again every 5 minutes after treatment for a total of 60 minutes. Differences between the 2 treatment conditions (massage, and massage control) performed 13 times were evaluated with a repeated-measures analysis of variance. Significance was set at p<0.05.
Significant differences were seen between conditions. The massage condition (32.05±0.16°C) yielded significantly higher skin temperatures than did massage control conditions. Significant differences in time occurred: The temperatures at 5 minutes (30.21±0.12°C), 10 minutes (31.00±0.30°C), and 15 minutes (31.65±0.12°C) showed significant increases (p<0.001). Peak temperature was achieved at 25 minutes after treatment (31.76±0.12°C).
Massage increased skin temperature. A rise in temperature theoretically indicates an increase in blood flow to the area. For this reason, and many others, we employ canine massage as a healing adjudicative treatment at our Holistic Center in our Hospital.
Dr. Sarah Kalivoda
Mountain View Animal Hospital & Holistic Pet Care
Source: Journal of Alternative Complimentary Medicine 2014 Dec;20(12):932-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0160.