The History of Massage – In 412 Words

Massage therapy is one of the oldest and enduring forms of medical treatment in the world. Almost every ancient civilization – in Rome, Greece, India, Japan, China, Egypt, Mesopotamia – have writings about massage, its practice and medical benefits.  Massage is elaborated on in ancient texts, Egyptian sarcophagi, and even temple walls in Cambodia. And while in modern times massage continues to gain respect as a proven way to deal with many medical conditions, it has not always been that way. Here’s a very truncated look at the history of massage.

It is natural that massage was a form of ancient medicine as it seems very instinctive to rub an area of the body that is sore or has recently been injured. So, while there were no doubt numerous monkey kingdoms practicing some form of massage therapy millions of years ago, there was also serious thought going into it thousands of years ago by some of the ancient world’s greatest thinkers. The Bible mentions massage as a method of beautification in the Old Testament, the Chinese recommended massage for its benefit to the skin and flesh, and even Hippocrates wrote that physicians “must be experienced in many things, but assuredly rubbing”.

Surprisingly, massage therapy fell out of common practice in the Western world until the middle 1800s when the Swedish method of massage was introduced in America and became popular. Massage fell from popularity again in the 1930s and 40s as modern medicine came to be seen as a cure-all. However, by the 1960s and 70s massage came to be used more and more for its medical and therapeutic benefits. There are now over 80 different methods of massage that are officially recognized, and Americans spend anywhere from $6 billion to $11 billion each year on massage therapy.

Indeed, it seems difficult now to imagine the more than 39,000,000 people who will receive massage in the United States this year not receiving massage next year. And why would they? Massage’s medical benefits are numerous, proven to, among other things, relieve back pain, lower blood pressure, treat migraines, ease post-operative pain, while also reducing anxiety and leading to a higher quality of life. With life’s stresses seemingly constantly on the rise, ancient practices will most likely continue to be perfected and used to treat modern day ills. This means that the number of people searching for a physician who can give them the “rubbing” that Hippocrates deemed so essential will no doubt continue to grow. 

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