You may think that massage therapy is a relatively modern trend that natural healing practitioners have been pushing on just about everyone. Well, it’s partially true.

The medical benefits of massage therapy are certainly being talked about more and more these days, but it’s definitely not new. In fact, massage therapy is part of a traditional holistic system of healing methods that started roughly 5,000 years ago.

Massage therapy dates back to 3000 BCE in India, where it was considered a sacred system of natural healing. Believed to be of divine origin and passed down orally through generations, it is said that massage helped to restore the body’s natural and physical balance so that it can heal naturally, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses.

As culture and history evolved, the healing methods of massage travelled to China and Southeast Asia between 3000 and 2500 BCE. Chinese massage practices developed as a combination of skills and techniques of traditional Chinese medicine, martial arts and the spiritual yoga training. The methods were based on the belief that various diseases were caused by an imbalance or deficiency of energy in specific pathways or meridians that represent physiological systems. The Egyptians added their own bodywork techniques and are credited with developing reflexology, which involves applying pressure to specific points or zones on the feet and hands to effect healing.

Starting around 1000 BCE, Japanese monks studying Buddhism in China observed the healing methods of traditional Chinese medicine, including massage therapy and put their own twist on it, calling it “anma,” later known as Shiatsu. The goal of Shiatsu is to regulate and strengthen organs by re-balancing energy levels through the stimulation of pressure points in hopes of bringing natural resistance to illness. They use their thumbs, fingers, and palms, working without needles or other instruments.

Between 800 and 700 BCE athletes and philosophers introduced massage to Greece. Athletes in Ancient Greece employed massage to keep their bodies in peak condition prior to competitions, and doctors often applied herbs and oils in combination with massage to treat various medical conditions. Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” treated physical injuries with friction, and instructed his physician colleagues on the benefits of rubbing to help the body heal. He was also the first to prescribe a combination of massage, proper diet, exercise, fresh air and music to restore health imbalance.

Roman physician Galen, in the 1st Century BCE, used massage therapy on Emperors, echoing Hippocrates’ ideas of treating injuries and illnesses. While the wealthy received massages in their homes by personal physicians, many Romans were treated in public baths for  “spa” treatments and full-body massages, to stimulate circulation and loosen their joints.

Massage therapy declined in popularity and practice until roughly 1600 CE, when numerous physicians and scientists observed and documented the benefits of massage. Western techniques made very few advances until the 19th century. In the early 1800s, the Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling created the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System that incorporated massage with medical gymnastics and physiology.

The demand for massage therapy increased again in the early 1900s. By the 1930s, Swedish massage had evolved, and the physiotherapists who used it in regular medicine helped to make it a legitimate and respectable form of medicine. Once physical therapy was licensed in the 1950s, massage therapy had its own category. Between 1970 and 2000, massage therapy experienced a transformation, as people chose to live healthier lifestyles and preferred more holistic approaches to health care, pain management and restoring and maintaining healthy bodies. Today’s massage therapists practice a multitude of techniques originating from those ancient methods that started 5000 years ago.

We have a dedicated and knowledgeable team ready to provide you with all the tools you need to take control of your health. Whether you are in need of a massage from one of our massage therapists, or a tailored exercise program from one of our physiotherapists, we are here to help.

If you would like to speak with any of our PROTx Services teams about massage and/or physiotherapy, book an appointment at one of our locations today.