History Of Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy has been used medicinally for thousands of years, dating back as early as 1000 BC China, in a book called The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine. The book is probably the oldest medical book in existence, and mentions the treatment of paralysis and reduced circulation using massage. The ancient Greeks used massage on athletes before and after sport. It was thought to prepare the muscles before activity and remove extra fluids and metabolites after sport, which is a theory in use today. Galen of Rome (129-199 AD) wrote 16 books on frictions (the term for massage) and exercises, describing the pressure, direction and frequency of treatment. Massage was used by both the rich and poor societies, and was performed with the hands, and also with cloth. Bone or wood instruments were also used to polish, tap or rub the skin to draw circulation and warmth to the skin. Throughout the Dark and Middle ages of Europe, massage was barely mentioned in literature until a French surgeon named Ambroise Pare (1510-1590) wrote a book on massage and its benefits to his surgical patients. He has translated Galen’s works on massage, and added his own information on the patients he treated.

Modern day massage- or Swedish massage, was founded in 19th century Sweden by Per Ling, a fencer and physical education teacher. Ling created a school of medical gymnastics, and in this school, incorporated massage techniques described in earlier textbooks. These techniques- petrissage, stroking, and tapotement, are still being used today in many massage practices. The Royal Institute of Gymnastics was founded in 1813 to reward Ling’s efforts. Despite the fact he created an entire system for exercise and massage, Ling wrote very little on the subject. So, in 1839, one of pupils, Augustus Georgii, published a book on Ling’s system after he died, and by the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish massage was internationally known.

Massage Therapy Today

In many countries today, massage therapy is a component of training for health care practitioners such as nurses, physiotherapists and athletic therapists. In some countries, massage therapy as a separate, legally recognized profession does not exist.

Today in America, massage practice laws can vary state to state; some states do not legislate massage while others do. In those with laws covering massage, entry level education requirements range from 300 to 750-plus hours of techniques, contraindications, anatomy, pathology, physiology, hygiene and ethics; some massage programs considerably exceed these minimum requirements. These educational standards and regulations for massage are set in place to provide safety to the public. The massage therapist has a responsibility to his clients to know when massage is safe and appropriate and when to refer to a specialist. These higher standards of educaiton and research on techniques can signal to the public, as well as other health care professionals and third party payers that massage therapy is a respectable, effective profession.