Community. Education. Leadership.

Log in


Origins of Massage in Folk Medicine

Manual therapy, in many forms, has existed in all cultures, dating back thousands of years. Cave paintings in the Pyrenees from 15,000B.C. depict therapeutic use of touch. Yes, that’s right, 15,000 years ago! In the past, massage was usually practiced by folk healers, midwives, or medicine men, and was passed on as an art and a gift, without much written reference, resulting in techniques being lost and “discovered” through the years.

Origins of Massage in China & Japan

The Chinese developed the first written, organized approach to massage, with books such as the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor, 300-100 B.C., and Notice Du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see, 604 B.C. These texts and systems influenced the development of modern Western massage, especially Swedish massage. Amma and Tuina are two ancient forms of massage developed in the Eastern hemisphere that are still widely used today. Amma and Tuina incorporate hands-on techniques with Chi Gung (energy work) to promote healing by balancing the energies inherent within the body.

Origins of Massage in India

In 1800 B.C., The Ayuur-Veda (Art of Life) was written, and it included massage therapies such as “tshanpau” (massage at the bath). Tshanpau included what we know today as Swedish Massage (kneading, tapotement, frictioning), and “cracking” the joints of fingers, toes, and neck. Also in this system were three “duties” of everyday life, with included bathing (hydrotherapy), massage, and exercise. This is not very different from what is recommended today as part of a healthy lifestyle!

Origins of Massage in Ancient Greece & Rome

As far back as 800 B.C., Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey) talked about eating nutritious foods, exercise (known then as “gymnastics’), and massage for war heroes to encourage healing. Aesculapius, later worshipped as the God of Medicine, combined exercise and massage to form gymnastics, and founded the first center (then called a gymnasium) to treat disease and teach health. Julius Caesar was treated with a form of massage now called pincement (a Swedish massage form of Tapotement) to help control epilepsy and neuralgia.

Origins of Massage in Modern Day

Jumping forward a few centuries or so, Per Henrik Ling founded Swedish Massage as we know it today. Developed in the late 1700s and early 1900s, this form of massage rapidly spread throughout Europe and Russia, and was introduced into the United States by the Taylor brothers, New York physicians, in 1858. Yes, massage therapy has been utilized in this country for well over a century! Because of its efficacy and the fact that it was backed and frequently recommended by physicians for medical reasons, massage therapy was very popular throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s.

However, new electronic medical devices, the use of massage as a cover-up for prostitution, and a general shift in medicine to pharmacology and surgery led to a marked decline in its usage therapeutically, and it became viewed as more of a luxury. The 1960s saw a reemergence of the popularity of massage, and it has been steadily increasing ever since. More and more doctors today refer their patients for massage therapy to alleviate pain, rehabilitate injuries, even to help with diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and many, many more. Massage has been used and proven as a positive healing modality for thousands of years, and will continue to do so for thousands more.

Massage therapy has become widely recognized as a healing modality for all planes - physical, mental, and emotional. If you have not yet experienced the art and science of massage therapy, come and see what 15,000 years of history has shown to be an amazing way to help oneself heal and rejuvenate.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software