The physical and physiological effects of vacuum massage on the different skin layers : a current status of the literatureThe physical and physiological effects of vacuum massage on the different skin layers : a current status of the literature
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Research group
Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy (REVAKI)
Publication type
Human medicine
Source (journal)
Burns & trauma. - 2013, currens
4(2016), p. 1-12
Article Reference
Target language
English (eng)
Full text (Publishers DOI)
University of Antwerp
Vacuum massage is a non-invasive mechanical massage technique performed with a mechanical device that lifts the skin by means of suction, creates a skin fold and mobilises that skin fold. In the late 1970s, this therapy was introduced to treat traumatic or burn scars. Although vacuum massage was invented to treat burns and scars, one can find very little literature on the effects of this intervention. Therefore, the aim of this review is to present an overview of the available literature on the physical and physiological effects of vacuum massage on epidermal and dermal skin structures in order to find the underlying working mechanisms that could benefit the healing of burns and scars. The discussion contains translational analysis of the results and provides recommendations for future research on the topic. An extended search for publications was performed using PubMed, Web of Science and Google Scholar. Two authors independently identified and checked each study against the inclusion criteria. Nineteen articles were included in the qualitative synthesis. The two most reported physical effects of vacuum massage were improvement of the tissue hardness and the elasticity of the skin. Besides physical effects, a variety of physiological effects are reported in literature, for example, an increased number of fibroblasts and collagen fibres accompanied by an alteration of fibroblast phenotype and collagen orientation. Little information was found on the decrease of pain and itch due to vacuum massage. Although vacuum massage initially had been developed for the treatment of burn scars, this literature review found little evidence for the efficacy of this treatment. Variations in duration, amplitude or frequency of the treatment have a substantial influence on collagen restructuring and reorientation, thus implying possible beneficial influences on the healing potential by mechanotransduction pathways. Vacuum massage may release the mechanical tension associated with scar retraction and thus induce apoptosis of myofibroblasts. Suggestions for future research include upscaling the study design, investigating the molecular pathways and dose dependency, comparing effects in different stages of repair, including evolutive parameters and the use of more objective assessment tools.
Full text (open access)