History of Modern Therapeutic Massage

In its simplest form massage is the external manipulation of the structures of the body (such as skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones) with positive intentions of relaxation, psychological or physical benefit to the recipient.

Massage is therefore thought to be as old as humanity, or older if including its use by other animals before upright homosapiens evolved i.e. human evolution.

Ancient China and Asia

The earliest known history of massage is associated with ancient China, where healers used pressure techniques similar to those practised in modern acupressure and shiatsu. Archeology has also established the use of oils on the bodies of Asiatic women. Similarly, various oils and creams believed to be for use on the body have been excavated from ancient Egyptian tombs.

Ancient Europe (incl. Ancient Greece)

There is evidence of the evolution of massage in Europe over the last 2500 years, from ancient Greece to the modern era. Much was written down during the 17th and 18th centuries when the terminology increased significantly and there was much debate about pressure, direction of motion, patient position, and so on.

Swedish Massage

Swedish practitioner Peter Henry Ling (also known as Per Henrik Ling, 1776-1839) is famous for founding the 'Swedish' system of massage which includes specific techniques and associated terminology including the modern terms "effleurage" and "petrissage". Unfortunately neither Ling nor his assistants and close associates left clear written accounts of their treatments at the time, so they were documented as well as possible by others, incl. Johan Georg Mezger (1838–1909), at a later date. It is believed that some of the greatest influences that shaped Dr Ling's work came from Tuina and Chinese martial arts. Many of the massage techniques used in modern "Swedish Massage" also form the basic techniques of tuina and Chinese massage.

Recognition of Therapeutic Massage

Massage did not become respectable or reputable until the 19th century. In 1894 a group of women formed 'The Society of Trained Masseuses', that eventually became 'The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy', which still exists today: www.csp.org.uk.

There are now many different types of massage, including:

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