Ever Wondered How and Where Massage Originated?

This month I am going to focus on massage: here on it's history and later on the effects and benefits of the various techniques used in Swedish massage.


The History of Massage in the East

Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, particularly the muscles, for the promotion and restoration of health. It has been practised for millennia and by many cultures.

As far back as 3000BC the Chinese were using massage to improve health and, as I mentioned in my blog post on the history of shiatsu, the Japanese adapted Chinese techniques to develop shiatsu.

The ancient Sanskrit book of wisdom The Vedas is based on the concept that health and happiness are achieved when body, mind and spirit are in balance. The three disciplines of ayurveda (body), yoga (mind) and tantra (spirit) aim to achieve that. Ayurveda is a form of alternative medicine that uses practices focusing on the body (rather than the mind or spirit) to prevent ill health and treat disease. Indian Head Massage (also known as champissage) is one of the traditional ayurvedic techniques originating in India.

Massage was also practised in ancient Egypt (Cleoptara was partial to a massage with aromatic oils) and in Persia, in conjunction with traditional bathing customs.


The History of Massage in the West

By around 500 BC, the practice of massage had spread from the East to Europe.

The Greeks had a holistic approach to health and well being, nurturing mind and body through exercise, dance, bathing rituals and massage. They are well known for their sporting prowess, and massage was used before events to improve performance and after to aid recovery. Similarly Greek soldiers used massage after battle to alleviate fatigue and regain strength.

And of course the Romans are famed for their baths, which also included massage areas. Roman gladiators and soldiers received massage before battle to invigorate them and after battle to promote recovery.

The Turkish bath or Hammam is a variation on the Roman bath and became popular with Victorian travellers.


Modern Massage

Modern massage techniques derive from those developed by the Swedish physiologist Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839). In the late 19th and early 20th century massage was used in the medical setting as an effective therapeutic technique. During the First World War massage was used to rehabilitate injured soldiers. This led to the establishment of The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in 1943.

Today massage is used much as it has been over its long history: for relaxation, to promote sports performance and for the treatment of specific medical problems, such as the use of manual lymphatic drainage to treat lymphoedema.

If you would like to experience the benefits of holistic massage, do get in touch.