Massage Therapy in its most rudimentary form is as old as mankind. It is likely that early cave dwellers possessed an instinctive understanding, common among most of the animal kingdom, that touch relieves pain and promotes healing.
No one culture can claim to be source of the idea that healing is facilitated by touch. Today’s massage therapy evolved from culturally disparate roots including Ancient Greece, Rome, China, Arabia and India. In fact the English word ?massage? is derived from the French massage (“friction of kneading”), which in turn is derived from masser (“to massage”), which originates from the Arabic massa (“he felt, touched”) or masaha (“to stroke, anoint, rub”).
Western civilization probably first became aware of the beneficial properties of massage therapy in the 1700’s through the French. At that time, the oldest known book referencing massage was translated into the vernacular and introduced to European culture. This was the ?Cong-Fu of the Tao-Tse? written in 3000 BCE China.
Many ancient Chinese writings describe a system of physical therapy mimicking natural animal movements. These ancient therapies can still be found today in Swedish massage therapy.
One ancient Chinese text written in 2760 BCE (?Nei Ching?) survives as a standard in massage therapy training.
Soon after that time, Egyptians developed what is known as reflexology. Paintings depicting a form of massage have been discovered in tombs in the Valley of the Kings dating to about 2330 BCE.
Massage therapy had long been established as part of India’s Ayurvedic medicine, dating back to 3000 BCE. Today’s practitioners of Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage use the same techniques of meditation, aromatherapy and massage kneeding and pressure developed thousands of years ago.
By 1000 BCE and into the second century AD, there is abundant evidence showing that the Greeks and Romans used massage with oils for healing, surgery, to relieve neuralgia and seizures, and to prepare athletes for the Olympic games.
Hippocrates (460-380BCE), the Father of modern medicine, believed that joint function and muscle tone were improved with massage, and changed massage technique significantly by promoting what he termed ?anatripsis? or massage upwards toward the heart thereby improving circulation.
By the time of Marcus Aurelius physical manipulations similar to tapotement used in Swedish massage were prescribed for a number of symptoms.
While massage therapy schools were created in China by the 100s AD, Western civilization saw few advances until about the 14th century when Guy de Chauleac published a surgical text describing massage as an essential part of surgery.
Finally, an 18th century Swedish fencing master, Per Henrik Ling gave Europe its first comprehensive massage therapy handbook and the Ling System, which incorporated techniques borrowed from those described in the ancient Chinese writings. The Ling System forms the basis of modern Swedish massage.
By the 20th century developments in pharmacology effectively changed the face of medicine in the West as drugs replaced natural methods of healing. Only within the last 50 years or so has massage therapy gained momentum in the West.
The stresses of modern society along with innovative developments such as the ?Seated Massage?, offering unparalleled accessibility, have thrust massage therapy into the spotlight as a respectable option in natural healing and calming techniques.
Hospitals and clinics routinely used this as a recognized and acceptable restorative treatment, yet its preventative benefits have yet to be explored by allopathic medicine. It is this one area that makes the future of massage therapy a promising one.
Thousands of years of tried and tested techniques give unparalleled credibility to its therapeutic advantages but it is the innovations yet to come in discovering its preventative benefits that make this an exciting field to be a part of.