History of Massage

MassageMassage Therapy – A Brief History

Have you enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of a professional massage lately? Are you considering regular massage as part of maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle? Let’s take a look at the history of massage. This will help us better appreciate the valuable resource that a certified professional massage therapist can bring to your team of healthcare providers.

Word Origin- Massage

In our current vocabulary, massage is the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. This is performed using the hands of the therapist, in order to achieve therapeutic benefits. The Greek root of the word is masso or massein, meaning to touch, to handle, to knead, or to squeeze. The Latin root massa has the same meaning as the Greek. The Arabicmass’h and the sanskrit makeh mean to press softly.

Massage in Ancient Times

Massage is one of the earliest and most natural means of relieving pain and discomfort. When a person has any injury or pain, the first instinctive impulse is to gently touch or rub the affected area. There are many artifacts throughout ancient civilizations that indicate that prehistoric men and women used body work as well as herbs and oils in the regular care of their bodies. Massage, as taught anciently by healers or physicians, was one of the most prominent forms of healthcare in the ancient world.

The Chinese and Egyptians both practiced body work as early as 3,000 B.C. The Chinese focused on treating points of energy. Done with acupuntcure (with the use of needles) and acupressure (finger pressure instead of needles). The Egyptians are thought to have created reflexology around 2500 B.C.

The practice of massage spread from China to Japan and India, and later on to the Greeks of Europe. The Greek physician Asclepius, who was later worshipped as the god of medicine, combined exercise and massage to form the art of gymnastics. Hippocrates, a descendant of Asclepius, wrote about the benefits of massage in medical practices. His famous code of ethics, the Hippocratic Oath, is still in use by physicians today. Hippocrates taught that all physicians should be trained in the use of massage as a method of healing.

The Romans learned of the benefits of massage from the Greeks and, combined with their public bath houses, made massage available to the rich and poor alike. Roman general Julius Caesar is believed to have had a daily massage to treat neuralgia and epileptic attacks.

There is not much recorded of massage during the Dark Ages. With the invention of the printing press in the Renaissance, there was a resurgence of interest in massage as people once again placed importance on physical health and appearance. Medical professionals could now share their techniques and stories of success with professionals around the world.

Massage in Modern Times

Modern Massage is the continuation of ancient techniques and theories combined with modern day knowledge of the complete body systems. There is a large body of Western research that now supports the Ancient practices of the Eastern civilizations. The most common form is the Swedish massage, which is designed to boost the circulatory and immune system. It is very effective in increasing the flow of fluids throughout the body and removing toxic cellular waste while delivering fresh oxygenated blood to the muscles.

The documented benefits of body work are widespread and enjoyed across the globe. With the modern emphasis that is now being placed on preventative and alternative therapies, the future use of massage to increase health and maintain a vigorous lifestyle will only grow in popularity.


Kimberly Platter, NCMT, LMT, member ABMP

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