A Little Massage History!

CHINA: The earliest known writing - Cuneiform, used by the Summerians, dates from shortly before 3000BC and almost all remaining fragments from the period are only administrative and economic. Chinese writing dates from around 1400BC, near the start of the Shang dynasty, and it is from around this time that we can reliably date massage. In modern times, massage in China has developed by absorbing western ideas into the traditional framework. It is widely practiced and taught in hospitals and medical schools and is an essential part of primary healthcare.

INDIA: Most records of Indian massage focus not on its medical qualities but on its sensual. The erotc sculptures at Khajuraho and elsewhere, for instance, and the Kama Sutra, bear testament to a culture that understands and uses these properties to change peoples' moods, to arouse them and to calm them.

GREECE: There is evidence that massage was common in Ancient Greece. In the medical field, massage was a typical Hellenistic remedy along with poultices, occasional tonics, fresh air and a corrective diet. Aesculapius worked in Thessalay (near Macedonia) in the 5th century BC. He is reported to have treated patients with relaxation, diet, hydrotherapy, herbs, massage, advice and tender loving care. Serpents were used at this stage as tools in curing patients; and it is the Staff of Aesculapius, with a serpent knotted around it, that has become the symbol of medicine. Hippocrates, the founding father of medicine, lived in Thessalay from 460BC to 377BC. He used friction in the treatment of sprains and dislocations, and kneading to treat constipation.

ROME: The Romans too were keen on massage. Those who could afford it would start by bathing themselves or being bathed by attendants, and having any stiff muscles rubbed with warm vegetable oil. Then came a full body massage to awaken nerves, stimulate circulation and free the action of their joints. Finally their entire body was rubbed with very fine oil to keep their skin elastic and supple. This combination of bathing, cleaning and massage appeared in every country that the Romans conquered. Julius Caesar himself was 'pinched' every day. Galen, who lived from 130AD to approximately 201AD, is the most notable figure associated with massage in Rome although he was originally Greek himself.

PERSIANS: Medical knowledge, including that of massage, made its way from Rome to Persia in the middle ages. Many of Galen's manuscripts, for instance, were collected and translated by Hunayn ibn Ishaq in the 9th century. Later in the 11th century copies were translated back into Latin, and again in the 15th and 16th centuries, when they helped enlighten European scholars as to the achievements of the Ancient Greeks.

UNITED STATES: Massage started to become popular in the United States in the middle part of the 1800s and was introduced by two New York physicians based on the belief that Per Henrik Ling had developed these techniques in Sweden. During the 1930s and 1940s massage's influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage's influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes. Massage was used up until the 1960s and 1970s by nurses to help ease patients' pain and help them sleep. Because it is illegal to advertise or offer sexual services in much of the United States, such services are sometimes advertised as "massage," hence the rise of the term "massage therapy" in an attempt to provide a distinction between sexual and non-sexual services. The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta was the first time that massage was offered as a core medical service. Massage has been employed by businesses and organizations such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Boeing and Reebok.

WESTERN EUROPE: An early record of massage in Western Europe comes from Ambroise Pare (1510-1590) who wrote about it in one of his publications, but was widely ridiculed. In 1780 Clement Joseph Tissot wrote the more successful Gymnastique Medicinale et Churgicale which covered occupational therapy as well as massage.

UNITED KINGDOM: Massage is popular in the United Kingdom today and gaining in popularity. There are many private practitioners working from their own premises as well as those who operate from commercial venues.

The term "Swedish Massage" refers to a variety of techniques specifically designed to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. It involves the use of kneading, stroking, friction, tapping, and vibration and may provide relief from stiffness, numbness, pain, constipation, and other health problems. The main purpose of Swedish massage is to increase the oxygen flow in the blood and release toxins from the muscles; it shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissues of lactic acid, uric acid, and other metabolic wastes and increases circulation without increasing heart load. Improves circulation and helps tired and aching muscles. It is most commonly used as a way of relieving stress and is a wonderful way to relax and have time for you.

This form of massage is commonly thought of as being created at the turn of the century by Henry Peter Ling (Per Henrik Ling) in Sweden, however Swedish massage did not originate in Sweden, nor was it created by a Swede. Also, in Sweden there is no "Swedish massage"; instead, massage is referred to almost universally as "classic massage." And in most of Europe the term classic massage is much more prevalent than Swedish massage. And so the term "Swedish massage" is a misnomer in a number of ways. There are very few massage books written that do not attribute Swedish massage to Peter Henry Ling (1776-1837), a Swede. Setting aside the argument that Swedish massage is a misnomer and would be more historically correct if it were called classic massage, Peter Ling was not the creator of Swedish massage. This may come as a shock to many readers, but it is absolutely true. Peter Ling is not the "father of Swedish massage," because Swedish massage was not a part of Ling's Swedish Gymnastic Movements nor the curriculum of the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute founded by Ling in 1813. Swedish massage is defined in large part by the original strokes that compose its method: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (striking), and frictions (rubbing), with vibration added later. The French terms - effleurage, petrissage, frictions (massage a frictions) and tapotement - were never used by Peter Ling, by any of his successors nor by the Central Gymnastic Institute. So where did these terms come from?

Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) is generally credited (by physicians such as Emil Kleen and Richard Hael, who researched the origins of massage and gymnastics) as the man who adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes under which he systemized massage as we know it today, as Swedish or classic massage. Somehow, the term Swedish Movement System was transposed to Swedish Massage System sometime during the second half of the 19th century. Ling's system was the Swedish Movement System or Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. This may be how he has become incorrectly associated for so long with Swedish massage. When the first books were written about Ling's Swedish Gymnastic System, the writers used the French terms so prevalent since Mezger's use of them. Later writers evidently attributed the French terms to Ling because of this.