The massage at acupoints on both hand and foot can adjust bodily functions, promote the circulation of qi and blood, and prevent and treat diseases; and the effect of this therapy is even better than that of body massage and other local massages.
The therapeutic effects of hand and foot massage can be summarized into the following items for further investigation and scientific explanation.
1. Adjustment of nervous system:
As mentioned above, the electrical properties of the hand and foot is similar to those of the brain, but the reflex mechanisms of the nervous system are more complicated. Hand and foot massage can apply stimulation to the skin receptors and nerve endings of the hand and foot to adjust the internal organs after the stimulating impulse is transmitted through the vegetative nervous system.
The first is from the reticular structure through the spinal nucleus of the vagus nerve, and parasympathetic fibers in vagus nerve to the internal organs; the second route is through the nucleus of the solitary tract, spinal nucleus of vagus nerve, and nerve fibers of vagus nerve to the internal organs; and the third route is from the reticular structure through the nucleus of the solitary tract to the center of sympathetic nervous system and then through the reticulospinal tract to the internal organs. As with other stimulation, the strong stimulation at short intervals can produce a stimulating effect; and the moderate stimulation at long intervals can produce an inhibitory effect. This phenomenon is a result of the adjustment between stimulation and inhibition by the cerebral cortex. During the application of hand and foot massage, the EEG may show a general exaggeration of alpha waves, even more apparent than that caused by other massage therapies.
The stimulating impulse evoked by the massage to the terminal receptors (with some specificity) of the skin is first transmitted to the posterior horn of the spinal cord through afferent somatic nerve fibers; it is then conducted to the ventral posterolateral nucleus of the thalamus through the spinothalamic tract and projected to the postcentral gyms through the occipital part of the internal capsule; the nerve impulse is again transmitted from the postcentral gyms through efferent fibers to the reticular structure; and finally it is conducted to the internal organs through three routes.
Adjustment of blood and lymph system:
Hand and foot massage can promote circulation of the blood and lymphs, because its effect on local microcirculation quickly spreads to the entire body. As shown by experimental study, this massage can affect blood composition and the consumption of oxygen. The WBC count and ratio of lymphocytes in the blood were markedly increased; the neutrophils and RBC counts were also slightly increased. Oxygen consumption of the limbs can also be elevated to produce a general energetic metabolism keeping the body healthy through the adjustment of Ying (nutrients) and Wei (defensive energy) and promoting qi and blood circulation. After persistent stimulation applied to acupoints and reflecting areas of the hand and foot, the heart rate and breath frequence as well as oxygen consumption in patients undergoing operations can also be increased by this massage.
3. Adjustment similar to physical exercise:
It is well known that persistent and coordinated physical exercise can improve the adaptation, health and defensive energy of the body. Massage at a certain frequence, with certain pressure and over a certain period of time can adjust the functions of various internal organs and enhance the body's immune system. Although hand and foot massage is not a physical exercise done by the patient, it can produce similar effects as physical exercise. Why? The sum of the stimulating information available to the hand and foot through exercise is same as that produced by local massage applied to the hand and foot. There-fore, it produces a similar result. After strenuous mental activity over a long period of time, physical exercise can relieve mental fatigue. If the opportunity for physical exercise is not available, a self-massage on the hand and foot for a few minutes with eyes closed in an environment with fresh air can also achieve the same goal of mental refreshment.
4. Adjustment of meridian system:
As mentioned above, 12 important regular meridians originate from or stop at the hand or foot, and according to traditional medical theory they are closely related to the body's organs and tissues. The acupoints near the origin or terminal of meridians are more sensitive in the adjustment of meridians and the whole body, just as the water flowing in lower reaches is under the control of the water source from the upper reaches of a river. As proven in clinical practice, stimulation of the acupoints can produce a remarkable adjusting effect to the meridians and the entire body. Massage applied to the reflecting areas may unavoidably stimulate the acupoints in those areas. Once the mechanism of this adjusting effect can be scientifically illustrated, for example through a nerve-like channel, temporarily com-posed of cells, a new system--the meridian system of the body--can be proven and established on a scientific basis to explain the secrets of the human body.