Massage Therapy - From the beginning


The Word Massage derives from the Arabic word “Massa” , to touch, feel or handle.  Every indigenous culture has its own style and form of hands on healing.  Its origins date back thousands of years. 



China is generally accepted as the originator of hands on healing methods. There is evidence dating back to the Shang dynasty circa  16-11 Century  bc, which refers to a technique called    “Anmo”  which literally means compression (an) and gliding (mo) . The term became generally used for   massage.    The very simplistic understanding was that the area of muscle and  soft tissue that was in pain had constricted blood vessels and  had a deficiency in healthy qi rich blood.  By encouraging  blood flow into  those areas,  the oxygenated,  qi  rich blood, eliminated the pain, which is the basically the premise of modern massage. 




In order to harmonize and treat a patient, Ayurvedic medicine   uses a combination of  diet, herbalism, aromatherapy, colour therapy, sound therapy and TOUCH therapy.   This holistic medical practice began in India around 3000bc, it’s  basis and theory was documented around 1500-500bc.   Ayurvedic medicine  is still practised throughout India  today.



There is documented evidence  that Queen IsIs of Egypt, who ruled around 2000bc,  included  massage  in her  general health and wellbeing routine.  Around 1850bc, written on ancient papyrus paper, there is an account for a therapeutic treatment for swollen legs with massage and mud.    




Archaeologist’s discovered clay tablets from ancient Babylon   dating from around 300bc , which  details,  massage being used as   a way of relieving inflammation of the intestines.  Paintings on the tomb walls  depict massage used for healing .  The practise of hands on healing medicine was practised by priest’s whose belief was  that disease,  pain and illness was the work of the gods and goddesses.  Prayers, spells, and amulets were often used in the hope of a cure.  An almost magical quality would have been given to those trained in the art of hands on healing.




It would seem that the ancient greeks were the first to develop sports massage!

The young man of  ancient Greece were encouraged  to develop their skills for battle. A purpose built  training facility  or “gymnasium” was available for the purpose.  Attached to the training facility would be a communal bathing facility, where not only bathing was encouraged to relax the muscles, but specific massage was performed pre and post training.    


I can’t quite help but draw parallels between the ancient greeks and the elite sports men of today.   We have taken over 2000 years to learn what the greeks knew.   As today’s top sports men and women, train in specialist gymnasiums, always looking to compete, to train in order to perform at their best, always striving for greater agility and strength and to win.  There care regime includes hot baths, ice baths and sport massage pre and post event by highly trained specialist  therapists.


Ancient Greece has  been integral in the development of modern medicine and  treatments.   Hippocrates  who was thought to  have lived between 460-370 bc. and is now called the father of modern medicine observed, that ill health and disease was not caused by angry gods but was the result of natural causes.  He believed in  a healthy diet, massage and physical exercise as a way to maintain good health.  Hippocrates was a man well ahead of his time. He also theorized that germ cells are passed down genetically which Darwin later laid claim to in 1864.   2000 years later!!!! . 


 “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and an oiled scented massage every day”




Thought to be have been brought into Europe by the French during the Napoleonic campaign.  Massage in French means “friction of kneading” .  The French are thought to have introduced the “Massage parlour” in around 1864 to Paris,  the Hedonistic Europeans embraced the raunchiness of the  “The  Massage Parlour” and it became the accepted term for  a “brothel”,  jump forward 150 years and  regretfully the  Massage industry  still struggles to overcome its past associations.



The Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling (1776–1839) devised a massage system with a set protocol for joint and muscle ailments after visiting China.  It was later extended to relieve deformities of arthritis and re-educate muscles following paralysis. Manipulations include light or hard stroking, compression (kneading, squeezing, and friction), and percussion (striking with the edges of the hand) and is the  basis of the remedial, sports and therapeutic techniques of today.



Theresa Klos  

(I love finding out the origin and meaning of things.. so when I decided to write this I got a little more than I bargained for, but that’s perfect, as to me that’s what life is about to  learn, to adapt, to implement and to create!)