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.

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