Massage has been used by people since time immemorial. Ancient people instinctively rubbed and kneaded sore parts of the body. They took the same actions to relieve fatigue, cleanse and soften their skin. Even in the Bible you can find references to anointing bodies with aromatic oils.
The word “massage” itself comes from the Arabic “mass”, which means “to gently press, touch”; “massage” is translated from Greek as “squeezing with hands,” and from French as “rubbing.”
In this article you can get acquainted with a brief history of massage from ancient times to our time and follow the chronology of the development of massage.
History of the development of massage in ancient times
Cave paintings provide the earliest evidence of the use of massage. They depict people rubbing each other. Household items found during excavations contain traces of ointments and oils mixed with medicinal herbs. Perhaps these products were used to heal wounds and soften the skin.
Already in the third millennium BC. e. The Chinese began using massage to treat illnesses and improve overall health. This is evidenced by ancient Chinese books, which are currently exhibits in the British Museum. In each of them, even in the book “Kung Fu Dao Tzu,” there is a description of the massage movements used in those days. It is in China that the massage technique called amma originates. It was developed by ancient Chinese healers when, in the process of studying humans, they discovered the healing effect of finger pressure on certain points of the body. This amma massage technique subsequently served as the basis for the creation of a method of massage of biologically active points, as well as therapeutic acupuncture.
The amma technique further spread eastward, penetrating Japan. There they continued to improve it, as a result it acquired some national features and another method of oriental massage appeared – tsubo. During this massage, biologically active points are influenced, which makes it possible to influence diseased human organs. This massage method has been used for centuries. Today, the method of treatment using finger pressure – shiatsu, or Japanese manual therapy – has become very popular. Professional massage therapists specializing in shiatsu can cure a number of diseases and simply help maintain the body in good shape.
Hindus combined massage with hygiene procedures. The famous ancient Indian medical treatise Ayurveda, or “Knowledge of Life”, written around 1800 BC. e., says that rubbing the body during water procedures not only cleanses the skin, but also helps relieve general fatigue and maintain good health.
It is known that the Egyptians and Persians used massage not only for medicinal purposes, but also as a means of body care. They made special mixtures of ointments, aromatic oils, medicinal herbs and resins and rubbed them on the face and body to improve the condition of the skin. During excavations of Egyptian graves, archaeologists found pots and jugs with traces of these creams. They say that the beautiful Cleopatra took milk baths, after which the maids massaged her and rubbed her body with aromatic oils.
At the beginning of 500 BC. e. massage traditions begin to gradually penetrate from the East to Europe.
History of massage in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome
In Ancient Greece, there was a cult of the body, hygiene, cleanliness, and the so-called healthy lifestyle was especially welcomed, which is practiced by many people in our time. The Greeks did gymnastic exercises and regularly visited baths, where massage was a mandatory procedure. They loved to organize various competitions. The athletes who took part in them received a massage before the competition to raise their overall tone, and after the competition they relieved fatigue, restored strength, or treated minor injuries and injuries with the help of massage. For the same purposes, gladiators used massage before and after battle. Homer, in his poem “The Odyssey,” mentions how beautiful women rubbed oils on the bodies of warriors returning from the battlefield.
In 500 BC. e. The Greek physician Herodikos used rubbing with oils and medicinal herbs to treat diseases. His student Hippocrates, whom we rightfully consider the father of medicine, was the first to study the effects of massage on his patients. Based on his observations, he wrote: “… the joint can be compressed and relaxed by massage. Friction causes contraction or relaxation of tissues, leading to emaciation or fullness; dry and frequent friction tightens, and soft, gentle and moderate friction thickens tissues.” Hippocrates noted that upward pressing movements have a more healing effect, i.e. towards the heart, and taught his students exactly this method of massage. Although at the time of Hippocrates the work of the heart and blood circulation had not yet been studied, it is known that he made his conclusions experimentally, observing the effects of stroking movements of varying strength on the human skin. Nowadays, having sufficient knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, we can answer the question why upward movements have a stronger healing effect: massage enhances blood and lymphatic flows, due to which waste products are quickly removed from the body and the blood is saturated with oxygen.
But even without modern knowledge, Hippocrates taught his students to direct their efforts upward during massage to promote healing.
History of massage from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
We know little about the practice of massage during the Middle Ages: from the decline of the Roman Empire in 500 AD. e. until the middle of the 14th century. Few records of those times mention only wars, the dominance of the church, superstition and religious persecution. Education, art and physical culture were not held in high esteem.
But in the subsequent Renaissance in the middle of the 15th century. Science and painting begin to develop rapidly, and interest in a healthy lifestyle reappears. Massage was again used for medicinal purposes.
French surgeon of the 16th century. Ambroise Pare (1517-1590) contributed to the spread of therapeutic massage. He was court physician to four French kings. In addition, he is known for successfully treating Queen Mary Stuart with the help of massage. Pare classified the massage as soft, medium and vigorous. Today we use similar names – relaxing, general and stimulating.
Many doctors adopted Pare’s methods, and massage became part of therapeutic medicine.
History of the development of modern massage methods
Modern massage techniques have borrowed much from the works of the Swedish physiologist Henrik Ling (1776-1839). He is the founder of the Swedish system of massage and therapeutic exercises, which became known as “Swedish movement therapy.” To define the basic massage techniques, Ling used the following terms: stroking, rubbing, vibration, rolling, clapping. Many of these names have survived to this day, and some have been modified and improved.
Dutch physician Georg Metzger (1839–1909), MD, developed a method of massage for recovery from injury and used it in the treatment of many diseases and disorders of the body. His theories, based on scientific knowledge in the field of human anatomy and physiology, began to be used in medical practice and found many followers, especially in Germany and America.
Thanks to the works of Ling and Metzger, massage was recognized as an effective treatment method and became widely used in many areas of medicine. Massage techniques began to be taught in educational institutions for medical personnel. The outstanding English surgeon John Grosvenor (1742-1823) treated joint pain with rubbing. He recommended massage as a remedy for rheumatism, gout and to increase joint flexibility.
Trained nurses massaged patients. These procedures were usually supervised by doctors. In 1894, the Society of Qualified Masseuses was founded, which helped educate women who wanted to engage in this type of activity. Thanks to this society, the quality standards of massage and its importance have increased significantly.
Events of the 20th century in the history of massage
During the First World War, massage was used to rehabilitate wounded soldiers, and the need for specialists in this field increased. The Society of Qualified Masseuses grew significantly in size, and in 1920 it was renamed the Institute of Massage and Therapeutic Exercise. For their invaluable services and work done during the war, members of the Society were awarded a Royal Charter, and the name was changed to the Chartered Society of Massage and Therapeutic Gymnastics. In 1943 the name changed again to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. In 1964, all its members underwent state registration, after which the rights of qualified specialists working in medical institutions were protected, and they acquired official status. Now massage therapists without qualifications had no right to work in hospitals.
With the development of an alternative method of treatment with electrical devices, the need for massage has disappeared. In medical educational institutions, the massage course has ceased to be a mandatory part of training, and it has become much less used in hospitals. However, massage was still used in specialized clinics, sanatoriums, and health centers.
In 1966, the City & Guilds Institute of London proposed opening courses for cosmetologists and including massage techniques in the curriculum. These courses were supposed to produce highly qualified specialists with theoretical knowledge and practical skills. In 1968, colleges of further education for the first time offered cosmetologist-massage courses to their applicants. The British Association of the Beauty and Cosmetology Industry, the International Health and Beauty Council and a number of other organizations also created their own courses, upon completion of which diplomas and certificates were issued. The growing interest in alternative medicine and healthy living has increased the demand for competent professionals not only in the field of therapeutic massage, but also in aromatherapy, reflexology, shiatsu, etc. All courses are approved by the Health and Beauty Training Authority and each graduate must meet the criteria set by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications.
Events of the 21th century in the history of massage
Generated by artificial intelligence
The 21st century has witnessed significant developments in the history of massage, with various events that have shaped the industry and its practices. Here are some notable events from the 21st century in the history of massage:
Integration of Massage Therapy
In the early 2000s, massage therapy gained wider recognition as a complementary and alternative medicine practice. It became more accepted by mainstream healthcare providers, leading to an increased integration of massage into hospitals, clinics, and wellness centers.
Research and Evidence-Based Practice
The 21st century saw a surge in scientific research focused on the benefits of massage therapy. Studies explored its efficacy in pain management, stress reduction, and overall well-being. This emphasis on evidence-based practice helped establish massage therapy as a credible and respected field.
The 21st century witnessed the emergence and popularity of various specialized massage modalities. Techniques such as deep tissue massage, sports massage, Thai massage, and prenatal massage gained recognition and became sought-after treatments.
With the rise of technology, the massage industry saw the introduction of innovative tools and equipment. Electric massagers, heated massage tables, and specialized massage chairs became widely available, enhancing the client’s experience and the therapist’s effectiveness.
Online Education and Certification
The internet revolutionized the accessibility of education and certification in massage therapy. Online learning platforms and webinars allowed aspiring therapists to gain knowledge and skills remotely. This resulted in an increase in the number of trained professionals and a higher standard of care.
Globalization of Massage
The 21st century witnessed the globalization of massage therapy. Techniques and practices from different cultures became more accessible worldwide. Therapists and practitioners began integrating Eastern and Western approaches, resulting in a more diverse and inclusive massage landscape.
Regulation and Licensing
In many countries, the 21st century saw increased regulation and licensing requirements for massage therapists. This was done to ensure client safety and maintain professional standards within the industry. Licensing boards, associations, and regulatory bodies were established to oversee the practice and protect the public.
These events have significantly shaped the history of massage in the 21st century, transforming it into a recognized and respected field that continues to provide therapeutic benefits to individuals worldwide.