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History of Massage Therapy

Updated on March 1, 2013

Ancient History

Massage therapy has a long history in cultures around the world dating back to ancient times many thousands of years ago. It has been referenced in writings of ancient Egypt, China, India, Arabic Nations, Greece and Rome. Although Massage therapy research is limited, only due to the fact that there are subtle changes that occur in the body, and we are not yet able to measure the complete effects accurately.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates defined medicine as “the art of rubbing” indicating that historically the idea of "medicine" was actually non-existant.  If something could make you feel better, it was "medicine."  

Initially the idea of “illness”, “disease”, “medicine” appears to be based on common sense and what one did to make people feel better when there was an injury or accident.

Make A Long Story Short

During the Renaissance, massage therapy became widely used in Europe. In the 1850’s two American physicians introduced Massage therapy into the United States after their studies in Sweden indicating the many benefits of Massage Therapy.

Then in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the pharmaceutical companies became more powerful, and with scientific and technological advances in medical treatment, massage therapy fell out of favor in the United States.

Interest in Massage Therapy was revived in the 1970’s, especially for use in athletics.

Massage & Health

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of alternative medical treatments used by Americans, and estimated 18 million U.S. adults and 700,000 children received massage therapy in the previous year.

People use massage therapy for a variety of health-related purposes, including the relief of pain, rehabilitation of sports injuries, reduction of stress, increased relaxation, assist in the relief of anxiety and depression and to aid in general wellness.


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