Kylie WIcks Sports Therapist
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History of Massage

The English word massage is derived from the Arabic word ‘mass’h’, which means to press gently.
This itself gives a hint to the long history of massage, which has been around as long as man. At some point in life every one suffers from minor injuries, pain or discomfort, our instinctive reaction is to rub or hold the affected area to ease the pain, certain plants can also be applied which would help to ease pain and promote healing. Today there are many highly specialised forms of massage all derived from these basic techniques.

Massage may be the oldest and simplest form of medical care. A Chinese book from 2,700 B.C., The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, recommends 'breathing exercises, massage of skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet" as the appropriate treatment for -complete paralysis, chills, and fever."

Native Americans also used heat and massage with herbs to treat many problems. The Cherokee and Navaho were among many tribes who rubbed their warriors before they went to war and when they returned. Massage was used to ease the labour pains of women and colic in infants.

In ancient Greek and Roman literature, there are numerous references to the benefits of massage. It was advocated before and after sport, where techniques were developed to help athletes keep their bodies in the best condition for competitions. Massage was used instead of exercise during convalescence, after bathing or as a medical treatment for conditions such as melancholia, asthma, digestive problems and even sterility.

Physicians of the time such as Hippocrates (460 to 377 BC) ‘the father of medicine’, used herbs with oils and massage techniques to treat many medical conditions. He stated that "anyone wishing to study medicine must master the art of massage." Greek women also recognised the value of massage with aromatic oils, using them as a beauty treatment for the skin and face.


Galen, a notable physician to several Emperors in the first century AD, used massage to treat many types of disease and physical injuries. He cited Hippocrates saying "rubbing, if strenuous, hardens the body, if gentle relaxes... rubbing should be employed, when either a feeble body has to be toned up, or one indurate has to be softened, or harmful superfluidity is to be dispersed, or a thin and infirm body has to be nourished."

"but assuredly in rubbing.. . for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid."

Julius Caesar, who suffered from neuralgia, had his body ‘pinched’ every day to help greater blood flow and reduce fatty tissue below the skin.

The wealthy would be massaged in their own home, by their personal physician, but many others received treatment at public baths, where both trainers and doctors plied their trade. Public baths were often funded by benefactors, so the entrance fee was nominal, hence baths were bustling places.
With the end of the fourteenth century came the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. In medicine there was a shift away from the centuries old teaching of Galen, and the spiritual basis for disease. Massage also became unpopular as Europe was overcome by a conservative and repressive religious dogma. Touching was not considered as part of the healing method as it involved corporal pleasures and these were considered sinful.

During the 1960s there was an uproar against the industry and inventions that were seen to be destroying our environment and a resurgence of interest in natural ways of treating the body. Since then there has been an increasing interest in massage and its use to relieve stress and reduce the effects of some illnesses.
In our modern society, where stress-related psychological disorders are becoming the number one health problem, massage is increasing in popularity through improvements seen in the body’s health and well-being.

 

 

 

 

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