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The origins and history of body massage

Updated: Jul 2, 2021



Massage may be the oldest form of physical medicine. There are references to massage in the medical text, the Nei Ching, written more than four thousand years ago by the Yellow Emperor. In India Ayurvedic massage has been a part of the ancient Hindu Ayurvedic medicine for at least 3,500 years. Like traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda treats the body and mind as inextricably linked.


Records also show that massage was commonly practiced in Ancient Greek and Roman societies. The cultural passion for athleticism which took hold also gave rise to an interest in the use of massage to prepare sportsmen for competitions and help aid in their recovery from injury. Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, prescribed treatments for injuries which included massaging and rubbing sore muscles. A little over 2000 years ago Julius Caesar was using massage to bring relief to headaches and neuralgia. After the fall of the Roman Empire there are few remaining records of physical medicine until the start of the Middle Ages, when the French physician Ambrose Paré restored the value placed on massage by medical professionals.


In the early 19th century a Swedish man, Per Henrik Ling, developed Swedish massage by combining his knowledge of gymnastics and physiology whilst drawing from Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Roman techniques. By the end of the century Swedish massage was used extensively in many European sanitariums.


In the 20th century hospitals started to introduce massage to speed rehabilitation. Today science is beginning to prove the mind-body connection and we have evidence that massage has a host of benefits for our overall wellbeing.






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