A Brief History of Massage Therapy

It has been said that Massage Therapy is the most natural form of healing. This claim seems true, and perhaps our natural inclination to massage a wound or ache is instinctual. Think about it: after leaning over at your desk, typing furiously on your keyboard for hours, you neck gets sore. What do you do? You rub it. Why? Because it makes your neck feel better!


Massage as a form of healing has been this obvious to those willing to consider it for thousands of years. Archaeologists have unearthed ancient Egyptian paintings depicting individuals being massaged dating back to 3,000 BC. This type of therapy is listed as a cure for fever, paralysis and other ailments in a Chinese medical book dating back to 2,700 BC.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used massage therapy continuously, and persons could often receive this treatment at bath houses. Wealthy Romans had massages daily, given to them by their servants.

There is a story that a veteran Roman soldier was rubbing himself against a wall outside of the baths when Emperor Hadrian passed by and asked the soldier what he was doing. The soldier quickly explained that he could not afford to hire slaves to massage him. Hadrian instantly supplied him with two slaves and enough money to pay them.

Interestingly, Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, exclaimed, "The Physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing... for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid."

The popularity of massage therapy declined with the fall of the Roman Empire. The practice was revived, however, during the Renaissance when Greek and Roman ideas were explored and reintroduced.

Massage Therapy gained more popular in Europe in the 19th century thanks to Swedish doctor, Per Henrik Ling. Based on his observations of gymnastics, his scientific knowledge of physiology, and his historical knowledge of massage therapy in China, Egypt, Greece and Rome, he developed Swedish Massage.

Frequently, Ling treat patients who suffered nerve injury in World War I with his massage therapy technique, which added to the revived attention this type of therapy received in the public eye. Popularity increased as doctors began to use massage to treat polio victims, and they also began exploring the idea that massage therapy could minimize the effects of paralysis.

Today, massage therapy continues to grow in its popularity and use. People view massage as both a luxury and as a necessity for medical treatment.

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  • Grand Prairie, TX
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