Lessons 1-10
Lessons 11-20
Lessons 21-30

Benefits & Effects – Physiological effects of massage & bodywork

Physiological Effects of Massage & Bodywork

How the Benefits & Effects Lessons Are Structured

The Benefits and Effects lessons of the MBLEx Course cover the main topics in this content area of the MBLEx, including:

  • Identification of the physiological effects of soft tissue manipulation
  • Psychological aspects of massage and benefits of touch
  • Benefits of soft tissue manipulation for specific client populations
  • Soft tissue techniques including types of strokes and sequence of applications
  • Technique and effects of hot and cold applications
  • Overview of massage and bodywork modalities

This course focuses on what an entry level massage therapist needs to know to start offering massage safely to the public. This is the same depth of knowledge that you will need for the MBLEx. You will also find some additional tips that will help you as you begin working as a professional massage therapist.

massage terminology and vocabulary

Terms & Definitions

A physiological effect of a treatment is a physical and observable change in the body’s structure or function, that is caused by the treatment. Physiological effects can be local or systemic. Examples are:

  • Vasoconstriction, which is a physiological effect of cold
  • Reduced adhesions due to scar tissue massage techniques
  • Improved peripheral circulation caused by a relaxing Swedish massage

Mechanical effect: a type of physiological effect that results from the direct physical application of therapeutic techniques. Mechanical effects are also referred to as direct effects, and they also tend to be local effects. Examples include: 

  • Breaking up of scar tissue or fascial adhesions using deep friction techniques
  • Moving lymphatic fluid with manual lymphatic drainage techniques
  • Stretching soft tissues using myofascial release techniques

Reflexive effect: a type of physiological effect that occurs due to an involuntary response caused by stimulating the nervous system. Reflexive effects are also called indirect effects, and they are typically systemic effects. Examples include: 

  • A decrease in blood pressure or heart rate due to stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)
  • Increase in peripheral blood circulation due to relaxation (stimulation of PSNS) causing  vasodilation
  • A change in hormone levels or other body chemistry due to the relaxation response

Systemic effect: a physiological effect is one that causes changes throughout the entire body. Psychological effects could be considered systemic too, since one’s mental and emotional state will effect the entire body. Examples of systemic effects include: 

  • A change in body chemistry (endocrine or nervous system activity) due to relaxation
  • Rate of organ function (heart rate or breathing rate)
  • Decreased pain sensitivity

Local effect: a physiological effect that is limited to the area being treated. 

  • Increase in local tissue temperature due to friction technique
  • Decrease in tissue adhesion due to application of scar mobilization technique

There are many other possible mechanical effects of massage, such as: 

  • Increasing tissue pliability with soft tissue manipulation
  • Increasing ROM with joint mobilization techniques
  • Loosening chest congestion with cupping tapotement over the chest
  • Causing a bruise due to excessive pressure (it is an unwanted effect, but still a potential mechanical effect)

This is a reflexive effect.

Parasympathetic nervous system

systemic effect