Paul Manley Clinic London Massage Research

Return to Clinic Page

Research on massage from around the world

Thank you for visiting this website, I hope that you will find this catalogue of massage based research both interesting and useful to you.

The majority of the research is on the physiological level of investigation e.g. effects on neuro-transmitters, gastro-intestinal motility, psychological, psychiatric and infant developmental problems, stress and many other types of common syndromes.

However, the various researches cannot yet touch upon the experience of the practitioner. This is entirely is subjective. But through years of experience and observation of  the behaviours of the muscles which work our existence, one can see, quite clearly the variances in both individuals and in individual muscles. Each muscle has its own characteristic reactions to various forms of stimuli. Some may relax and weaken if not used, some will tighten and maintain tension despite being no longer used for the purpose which made them tense in the first place.

There is a clear distinction between the phasic muscles and the postural muscles at the top level of the locomotor (the ability to move around using muscles) system. The phasic are the ones that move us around in large movemements such as walking, running, waving etc. The postural muscles are the ones that stop us falling flat on our face when we bend over. They adapt their resting tone (the intrinsic resistance of a muscle when 'relaxed') to what you have required them to do in repeated stabilising actions such as drawing, playing an instrument, holding up the neck as we type. These muscles do everything to keep us functional within our regular requirements.

Over years of observation through palpation (the art and skill of sensing via touch) I have learned that muscles which are normally classified as phasic tend to have a deep postural layer. This deep layer perpetuates much of the hypertonic (excessive muscle tension/tone). When unused for long periods of time they will eventually relax. The postural muscles especially of the spine are more stubborn and can hold tension patterns for many years, even from childhood.

In almost any injury there will be an area of primary injury and, then its consequent secondary spread to adjacent areas, then on to the tertiary spread. For example, you stub your right big toe, you limp, your knee and calf tighten up and your low back begins to ache after a day or two. After a week or so your right shoulder decides to join in. The primary injury may have calmed done by now but you are now still limping, your shoulder causing the headaches that you used to get years ago. This, then, is a fairly normal bodily reaction injury. Some of the effects are temporary, some can be permanent.

This is where soft-tissue (massage) can be so useful in returning the locomotor system to neutral.

There is a wide variety on massage techniques in this world, the ancient and the new. Above all, it depends on the skills and experience of the practitioner as to whether they can help you. I use a large toolbox containing many differently defined techniques, some others use but a single tool. Better to have more techniques than few. Whilst at the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopethy in 1974 I was taught both Swedish massage and what was called Neuro-muscular technique, now more commonly known as Deep tissue work. In 1976 At the European College of Osteopathy from 1976- 1980 I was taught the General Articulatory technique. This involved moving and stretching the patients limbs, putting them through their full range of motion. We were also taught the art of stimulation and inhibition of muscles and their associated neural reflex pathways. After 6 years of apprenticeship with my Father, an Osteopath, I began to realise the primacy of the soft-tissues in the various musculo-skeletal problem that patients presented with. So I called upon my massage toolbox and have subsequently developed my own unique style of diagnosis and treatment.

Employees health

Businesses can now see the bigger picture.... Now you can effectively assess employees who may be suffering from repetitive strain injuries and/or work related stress: go to to see more.

Onsite massage is proven via industry statistics to lessen absenteeism through injury and stress and to increase productivity, what more can humanity ask for than to receive a switch off period on a regular basis. For example "In 2001 MD Anderson Cancer Center created a workers’ compensation and injury care unit within its employee health and well-being department, staffed by a physician and a nurse case manager. Within six years, lost work days declined by 80% and modified-duty days by 64%. Cost savings, calculated by multiplying the reduction in lost work days by average pay rates, totaled $1.5 million; workers’ comp insurance premiums declined by 50%."

If, after reading through every? word of this abundant website you wish to consult me, then please refer to my clinic website at

In summary

Research on massage by psychologists at the Touch Research Institute in the USA and from other fields, such as nursing, shows that massage lessens stress, depression and anxiety. Massage also decreases pain associated with migraines, lower-back stress and fibromyalgia. Self-massage can even reduce cravings for cigarettes. And it's been proven to help hypertension by reducing diastolic blood pressure.

One way that massage works is from stimulating pressure receptors in the brain. Most people don't realise this. They might have a light stroking type of massage such as Swedish, but that doesn't help and really is unsatisfactory to most people."

These receptors are long and well-insulated nerve fibers, much more insulated than pain receptors. Say, for example, you hit your funny bone and you rub it. The pain message is transmitted more slowly than the pressure message, so it gets turned off and you stop experiencing pain.

Many types of exercise provide the same stimulation as massage. Yoga, for example, is really a type of self-massage because it involves pushing against a surface or another limb, so it stimulates the pressure receptors. Even using a loofah or natural brush in the shower can stimulate these receptors.

The receptors stimulate the vagus nerve which connects to the heart and digestive tract, as well as other body parts. When stimulated, the branch to the heart can slow the heart rate, for example. We have a very complex nervous system and massage seems to be actively involved in releasing serotonin and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.

When cortisol decreases, stress is reduced and immune cells receive a boost. In pain syndromes such as migraine, arthritis and lower-back pain massage can improve deep sleep, which can help relieve pain. One of the major culprits in terms of pain syndromes is lack of sleep.

With diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS the benefits of massage are not only reduced stress and depressive symptoms, but also an increase in immune functioning. It has been found that whether applied to pain or psychiatric problems or attention problems, autoimmune problems such as diabetes, and immune-system problems like cancer all benefit from massage."

Some references to research work on massage

Field, T., Cullen, C., Hartshorn, K. et al. (in press). Fibromyalgia patients experience improved sleep patterns, lower substance p levels and pain reduction following massage therapy. Journal of Clinical Rheumotology.

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., et al. (2001). Low back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 131-145.

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., et al. (2000). High blood pressure and associated symptoms were reduced by massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 4, 31-38.

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., et al. (1999). Smoking cravings are reduced by self-massage. Preventive Medicine, 28, 28-32.

Paul Manley Clinic Website

Website by Dark Screen Productions