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Ann Biomed Eng. 2014 Jan;42(1):36-49. doi: 10.1007/s10439-013-0886-3. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

A mechatronic system for quantitative application and assessment of massage-like actions in small animals.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.


Massage therapy has a long history and has been widely believed effective in restoring tissue function, relieving pain and stress, and promoting overall well-being. However, the application of massage-like actions and the efficacy of massage are largely based on anecdotal experiences that are difficult to define and measure. This leads to a somewhat limited evidence-based interface of massage therapy with modern medicine. In this study, we introduce a mechatronic device that delivers highly reproducible massage-like mechanical loads to the hind limbs of small animals (rats and rabbits), where various massage-like actions are quantified by the loading parameters (magnitude, frequency and duration) of the compressive and transverse forces on the subject tissues. The effect of massage is measured by the difference in passive viscoelastic properties of the subject tissues before and after mechanical loading, both obtained by the same device. Results show that this device is useful in identifying the loading parameters that are most conducive to a change in tissue mechanical properties, and can determine the range of loading parameters that result in sustained changes in tissue mechanical properties and function. This device presents the first step in our effort for quantifying the application of massage-like actions used clinically and measurement of their efficacy that can readily be combined with various quantitative measures (e.g., active mechanical properties and physiological assays) for determining the therapeutic and mechanistic effects of massage therapies.

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