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The History of Massage

The History of Massage

Early Beginnings of Massage

The first written records of massage go back nearly 5000 years.

The classic text “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine” is often referred to when talking about the history of medicine. It was published in about 2700 BC and many of the massage practices recommended in it are in use today.

Egyptian tomb paintings dating back to 2500 BC show people using massage. Around the same time Egyptians also started the practice of reflexology.

Written evidence of massage in India could go back as far as 1500 BC, but it is thought that the tradition of massage was passed down orally quite some time before this, with the practice possibly dating back to 3000 BC.

Around 1000 BC, Japanese monks started observing the efficacy of Chinese medicine. As a result, they took many of the massage practices back to Japan where they evolved into Japanese traditional massage. This, in turn, grew into Shiatsu that, like Chinese practices, uses the meridian system to rebalance the patients energy, thus aiding physical and emotional well-being.

Greeks And Romans

The ancient Greeks started practicing massage around 700-800 BC. Its use entered their culture from the East. In around 500 BC Herodicus wrote about the benefits of massage. Hippocrates, who is credited as being the founding father of modern medicine, was a student of Herodicus. Hippocrates emphasised the importance of massage, believing that all doctors should be trained in massage as it was so important for healing.

In ancient Greece massage was used by athletes as part of their fitness regime. Also, medical ailments were treated via the application of various combinations of oils and herbs through massage.

The tradition of massage was carried forward to the Roman Empire, where many received massages in Roman baths. Turkish baths are the nearest modern-day equivalent to Roman baths, and massage is still a central part of the experience of a Turkish bath. Just like in the other practices outlined, massage was used in ancient Rome to help with sore and stiff muscles, as well as other medical conditions.

Recent Times

The popularity of massage as a formal practice declined in popularity in the West until about 1600. However, from about 1600, many learned physicians spoke out about the benefits of massage. This interest in massage was galvanised by Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) who studied in China developing a set of techniques which became known as Swedish massage (Ling was from Sweden…).

Many forms of massage are popular today, and practitioners often combine them to great effect. It is a practice that holds true to many of its ancient roots, but is also evolving with the increasing knowledge of the human body and with increasing popularity. Just like in ancient times, it is used not only for relaxation, but to restore tired, aching muscles, and also for other medical complaints.

With the increase in technology there are now various mechanical devices available. However, I have found none to be as effective as a massage therapist really listening to you, and using their skill and sensitivity to help you to relax and heal.