Massage Therapy History: How Massage Therapists Began

Learn how and where the fast growing health care industry of Massage Therapy originated.
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​The History of Massage Therapy & How Massage Therapists Began

Receiving a soothing and healing massage with subtle music is truly an amazing experience that is enjoyed around the globe. It is also a health practice that has been used for a very long time.

Massage Therapy originated thousands of years ago with the first found texts mentioning it found in Eastern cultures in Egypt and also in China. These ancient civilizations practiced massage therapy for its positive impact on health.

Massage therapy didn’t make its way to the West until the early part of the 1800s. However, since that time the field of massage therapy has grown tremendously in the United States and other western countries.

But not without criticism at times from some who believed that people were simply indulging and not actually healing.

However, after over 5,000 years of practice around the globe, massage therapy is regarded as one of the most effective forms of natural healing.

Timeline of Massage Therapy History

2700 B.C. – The original chinese text, that we know of, is published as “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Book of Internal Medicine”. It took nearly 5,000 years for this to be translated to English and published in 1949. Since published in English it has become a primary educationa text in modern massage therapy programs. In fact, this book is also used to teach a variety of alternative healing practices such as acupressure, acupuncture, and herbology.

2500 B.C. – Egyptian hyroglyphics and tomb paintings prove that massage therapy was also used in their culture for medical practices. The Egyptians have also been credited for creating reflexology which is a massage therapy specialty applying different pressures to hands, feet, and ears. The Eqyptian massage therapy studies went on to influence other parts of the world, namely Rome and Greece culture.

1500 B.C. – Although India likely adopted massage therapy practices as early as 3000 B.C., in 1500 B.C. they began documenting their massage therapy practices. Ayurvedic medicine, stemming from a Sanskrit word “Ayurveda” meaning “life health” came into practice by Hindus who believe in healing through touch and massage. Ayurvedic medicine is considered the cornerstone of holsitic healing and medicinal practices such as massage therapy, aromatherapy, meditation, and relaxation.

Massage Therapy Introduced in the West

1800 A.D. – Per Henril Ling, a renowned Swedish Doctor, gymnast, and teacher developed the “Swedish Movement System” which is a popular method of movement used to this day in massage therapy. In fact, in the West, Dr. Ling’s system the most common type of massage practiced and is called the “Swedish Massage”. If you have ever been to a massage parlor then you’ve likely seen their menu or offerings list the Swedish massage.

Although originally developed by Dr. Ling, Johan Georg Mezger a Dutchman defined the massage techniques regarding hand strokes for the Swedish massage used today.

The other most popular and common massage therapy practiced in the West today alongside the Swedish massage is a Japanese massage therapy practice that is called Shiatsu. Although very popular, you may not be as familiar with Shiatsu as the Swedish massage.

The Future and Growth of Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy has been practiced around the globe for thousands of years and it isn’t going away. In fact, it will continue to grow and spread around the world like it was brought to the West in the early 1800s. This leaves huge potential not only for growth but for additional research and new technologies and practices.

Just in the last 50 years in the U.S. we have experience a huge shift of resources being invested into the healing properties of body work and massage therapy. We have never had as high of a demand for massage therapists than we do now.

Massage Therapy is used to relieve pain and assist with a variety of other health issues such as stiffness and mobility. It is also used as preventative medicine.

Here is a list of some places you can find massage therapists working in the health care industry providing massage therapy services:

  • Hospitals
  • Health Clinics
  • Physical Therapy Practices
  • Spas
  • Nursing Homes
  • Massage Parlors
  • Gyms
  • Birthing and Motherhood
  • Centers
  • Corporate Offices
  • YMCA and Community
  • Centers
  • Chiropractic Offices
  • Alternative Healing Clinics
  • Acupuncture Clinics
  • And many more places across the U.S.

For more places where massage therapists work, checkout massage therapy specialties.

As you can see, massage therapy has quickly integrated into our culture and become a staple health practice for many Americans.

It is an enjoyable health practice to relieve stress and pain, while increasing mobility and circulation and speeding up the recovery process for damaged muscle tissue.

If you would enjoy healing others through the practice of massage therapy then click the blue button that says “find schools” to get matched with massage therapy programs today.

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