Failure of manual massage to alter limb blood flow: measures by Doppler ultrasound

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 May;29(5):610-4. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199705000-00004.


The ability of manual massage to alter muscle blood flow through three types of massage treatments in a small (forearm) and a large (quadriceps) muscle mass was tested in 10 healthy individuals. A certified massage therapist administered effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement treatments to the forearm flexors (small muscle mass) and quadriceps (large muscle mass) muscle groups in a counterbalanced manner. Limb blood flow was determined from mean blood velocity (MBV) (pulsed Doppler) and vessel diameter (echo Doppler). MBV values were obtained from the continuous data sets prior to treatment, and at 5, 10, and 20 s and 5 min following the onset of massage. Arterial diameters were measured immediately prior to and following the massage treatments; these values were not different and were averaged for the blood flow calculations. The MBV (e.g., 5.77 +/- 0.4 and 9.73 +/- 0.7 cm.s-1) and blood flows (39.1 +/- 6.4 and 371 +/- 30 ml.min-1) for brachial and femoral arteries, respectively, were not altered by any of the massage treatments in either the forearm or quadriceps muscle groups (P > 0.05). Mild voluntary handgrip (approximately 35% maximal voluntary isometric contraction) and knee extension (15 cm) contractions resulted in peak blood velocities (15.2 +/- 1.2 and 28.1 +/- 3.1 cm.s-1) and blood flow (126 +/- 19 and 1087 +/- 144 ml.min-1) for brachial and femoral arteries, respectively, which were significantly elevated from rest (P < 0.05). The results indicate that manual massage does not elevate muscle blood flow irrespective of massage type or the muscle mass receiving the treatment. Further, the results indicate that if an elevated muscle blood flow is the desired therapeutic effect, then light exercise would be beneficial whereas massage would not.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Female
  • Forearm / blood supply*
  • Forearm / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Leg / blood supply*
  • Leg / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler*