Research Papers

An Engineering Approach for Quantitative Analysis of the Lengthwise Strokes in Massage Therapies

[+] Author and Article Information
Hansong Zeng

Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210

Timothy A. Butterfield

Division of Athletic Training, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506

Sudha Agarwal

Department of Oral Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210

Furqan Haq, Thomas M. Best

Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210

Yi Zhao1

Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210zhao.178@osu.edu


Corresponding author.

J. Med. Devices 2(4), 041003 (Oct 24, 2008) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2996623 History: Received February 14, 2008; Revised August 11, 2008; Published October 24, 2008

Massage therapies are widely used for improving and restoring the function of human tissues. It is generally accepted that such therapies promote human health and well-being by several possible mechanisms, including increase in blood flow and parasympathetic activity, release of relaxation hormones, and inhibition of muscle tension, neuromuscular excitability, and stress hormones. Nonetheless, most of the purported beneficial/adverse effects of massage are based on anecdotal experiences, providing little insight on its effectiveness or the mechanisms underlying its usefulness. Furthermore, most studies to date have not quantitatively demonstrated the efficacy of massage on human health. This might be due to the lack of appropriate tools necessary for the application of quantitatively controlled loading and for the evaluation of the subsequent responses. To address this issue, we developed a device that applies compression in lengthwise strokes to the soft tissues of the New Zealand white rabbit, thereby mimicking the rubbing and effleurage techniques of massage. This device permits control of the magnitude and frequency of mechanical load applied to the rabbit’s hind limb for various durations. The measurement of tissue compliance and the viscoelastic properties as a function of loading parameters was also demonstrated. Findings of this study suggest that this device offers a quantitative analysis of the applied loads on the tissue to determine an optimal range of loading conditions required for the safe and effective use of massage therapies.

Copyright © 2008 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Two type of massage actions. (a) In this model the compressive loading is applied to the tissue by repetitive up and down movements at the same site on the surface of the subject tissue. (b) In the lengthwise motion, the massage head (or thumb) moves in the direction parallel to the natural surface of the tissue. The dashed lines illustrate the deformation of the tissues underneath the surface.

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Figure 2

Experiment setup for applying compressive loadings and lengthwise strokes. (a) Compressive forces were applied to the animal tissue during the lengthwise strokes where the magnitude and frequency of the forces and the transverse motion of the kneading wheel were continuously monitored. (b) An experiment was performed on the hind limb of a rabbit.

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Figure 3

Measurement of tissue compliance: (a) experiment setup for the compliance measurement; (b) the tissue compliance was determined within the force range 1–4 N

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Figure 4

The relaxation test on the rabbit’s hind limb. (a) Record of the loading force under a relaxation test showed that the hind limb exhibited a nonlinear viscoelastic behavior. (b) The fast and slow relaxations were both analyzed by the exponential approximation of the experimental data. The half-value times of fast and slow relaxation are 2.74 s, and 65.38 s, respectively.

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Figure 5

The mechanical loading applied on the tissue was analyzed using a simplified model, by closely examining (a) a small specimen of rabbit tissue with dimensions (δ×w×Th). (b) The 2D model connects the time-domain with the spatial domain by assuming that the forces applied to the corresponding points (A′ and A″) are the same.

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Figure 6

Real time analysis of the lengthwise motion of the kneading wheel on the rabbit lower limb. The strokes are about 28 mm. (a) The movement of the kneading wheel was recorded at 30 frames/s during the entire loading period. (b) The motion tracking was performed by measuring the distance between a characteristic point on the kneading wheel and a stationary reference point. (c) The lateral displacement versus time showed the repetitive motion of the kneading wheel along the lengthwise direction. (d) The lateral velocity of the kneading wheel was derived from the motion tracking. The velocity profile was used for the determination of the loading dose. The rapid velocity dropping at the end of each stroke was due to the mechanical impact of the pneumatic linear actuator. (e) The compressive loading profile along the entire length of the rabbit’s hind limb. The effective loading length is about 22 mm.

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Figure 7

A representative loading curve at 0.5 Hz showed that the loading dose is a function of the lateral position and duration of the loads. Different profiles of the loading dose were obtained by assuming different thicknesses. (a) Assuming that the thickness of the tissue was kept constant (7.5 mm) and (b) assuming that the thickness of the tissue has an exponential change from 5 mm to 10 mm along the lateral direction.

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Figure 8

Tissue mechanical properties are functions of the loading dose during the lengthwise strokes. (a) Tissue compliance increased by ∼36.3% after 100 cycles, ∼47.6% after 300 cycles, and ∼61.2% after 900 cycles. The changing rate decreases as the loading proceeds. (b) and (c): Relaxation test showed the hind limb became “more viscous” after lengthwise strokes, as evidenced by the decreases of the half-value time in slow and fast relaxations. For slow relaxation, the half-value time quickly dropped from 65.38 s (before loading) to 31.8 s after 100 cycles (reduced by more than 51.4%). In fast relaxation, a relatively small change was observed (1.8%, from 2.74 s before loading to 2.69 s after 100 cycles). In the following cycles, the half-value time did not change monotonically. After 300 cycles, the half-value times are 43.52 s for slow relaxation and 2.61 s for fast relaxation. After 900 cycles, the half-value times are 30.00 s for slow relaxation and 2.64 s for fast relaxation.

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Figure 9

Lengthwise strokes showed striking effects on recovering the postexercise muscle damage. After a lengthwise massage of 30 min/day (0.5 Hz) for four consecutive days (average load of about 11.4 N), the peak toque of the tissue increased by 117% than that of the tissue immediately following the eccentric exercise. The minimal muscle fiber damage and infiltrating leukocytes were also observed (shown in the subfigures). The green arrow indicates the torn muscle fiber, and the black arrow indicates the increased level of infiltrating leukocytes in the postexercise muscle.

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Figure 10

The mechanical impact between the piston and cylinder body of the pneumatic linear actuator induced force fluctuation at the end of each lengthwise stroke. Under a loading frequency of 0.5 Hz, it took about 0.5 s for the system to be stabilized after the impact and for the force fluctuation to attenuate to an allowable level.



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