Massage on the Brain

Massage, as therapeutic use, has been utilized throughouthistory. But, regarding ourunderstanding of its impact on the brain, it has not been understood untilrecently.

Simplistically, the brain needs fuel and activation to runproperly. Glucose, a type of sugar, isone of the primary forms of fuel used by the brain. The brain is an energy hog requiring up to20% of total glucose of the body, yet by tissue weight is only 2% of total bodymass. 1 Excess table sugar (which is 50% glucose, 50%fructose) can be dangerous to the brain. Other body tissues have the ability to block excess sugar(insulin-resistance), but the brain and nervous tissue do not have thisability. This explains why Alzheimers is now being considered a type 3diabetes issue. 2

Brain activity comes from our bodys sensing system(afferent input). When we think about our senses, we often default to our specialsenses of the body (hearing, taste, smell, vision, balance). We often overlook the multitude of other receptorslocated both on the surface and inside of our body (pressure, touch,temperature, vibration, pain, etc). There are volumes of information going to thebrain every moment of every day.

It has been stated the brain receives a few trillions bits(appox 3,000,000,000,000) of information per second; to which we only process about50 bits to a conscious level. 3 This is why most of us tune outthe pressure of our body weight when sitting in a chair or only recognizetender/trigger points when found by touch. Yet, it is these general body receptorsthat benefit our brain the most.

We have numerous receptorslocated throughout our entire body. Thereceptors help us perceive our environment and the changes to it (cold, warmth,pressure, vibration, light touch, etc.). There are also receptors in our muscle tissue (muscle spindles) andtendons (GTOs). It is currently believedmuscle spindles and GTOs contribute the highest amount of input into the brain,approximately 40% of all sense information! 4 This is why manualtherapies (massage, chiropractic, physical therapy, etc) are so powerful on itseffect to health, healing and recovery. We influence brain function with these therapies. This also explains why exercise (musclemovement) is the best anti-depressant medication around!5

Chiropractic adjustments allow for better motion of the bodyareas that have become stuck. Byrestoring motion, we can influence brain function, and ultimately brainactivation. Likewise, physical therapy/traininghelps the body to move better, which fuels the brain. Lastly, massage directly influences and canchange the largest sense system of the body. Massage can help rebalance receptor input, which is what creates therelaxed muscle feeling and makes us feel better.


1)        1) J Physiol. 2003 January 15; 546(Pt 2): 325.

2)        2) The New York Academy of Sciences: Is Alzheimers Disease type 3 diabetes?

3)       3)  Furman and Gallo 2000 The Neurophysics of HumanBehavoir

4)       4)  Functional Neurology for Practitioners of ManualMedicine, 2nd Edition. BeckR. 2011.

5)       5)  Time Saturday June 19, 2010 Is Exercise the bestdrug for depression? By Laura Blue

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