Massage Therapy is just one persuasion from a wide array of other very effective and closely related persuasions such as Acupressure, Body Work, Manipulative Therapy, Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Structural Integration, Alternative Medical Systems, Mind-Body Intervention, Biologically Based Therapy, Energy Therapy, Shiatsu and Tui Na. And all these as a group come under the wide umbrella of alternative medicine and body-based methods. Massage Therapy is a procedure in which various methods are utilized to manipulate soft tissues of the subject’s body such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints, connective tissues as well as the lymphatic vessels and organs of the gastrointestinal system.
The primary goal of Massage Therapy is to affect physical, psychological and functional curative changes by performing manipulative functions which involve moving or stationery pressure, structured or unstructured force to strategic points, vibration, stroking, kneading, and so on. On occasion, mechanical devices are used as tools of the trade, but for the most part, Massage Therapy is applied manually with the therapist’s hands, fingers, elbows, forearms and feet as the subject is fully clothed in a massage chair or partially to totally naked but covered with a towel on a massage table or on a mat on the floor.
Ancient scriptures have attested to the fact that massage therapy dates back into antiquity and it has been a fundamental practice in many different cultures such as the Roman, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Indian. Even Biblical writings from c. 493 BC speak of daily massage with olive oil and myrrh being applied to the wives of Xerxes (Esther, 2:9-12) as part of their daily beauty routine. Hippocrates of Cos, a Greek physician of the fourth century BC who is also considered the “father of medicine” and after whose teachings the famous Hippocratic Oath was named, wrote that “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing.”
Advancing to more modern times, Massage Therapy gained its popularity in the United States when it was presented by two physicians from New York in the 1800s. Their techniques were an adaptation from the Per Henrik Ling Massage Therapy which was developed in Sweden. With the introduction of new and exciting innovations in medicine during the 1930s and 1940s, the popularity of Massage Therapy waned but was revived again by the athletic community in the 1960s and 1970s. Massage Therapy was provided as a central medical service for the first time in the United States during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
Etymologically speaking, the word “massage” in English comes from a long line of derivatives as follows: the French word “massage” which means “the friction of kneading,” which comes from the Arabic word “massa” which means “to touch, feel or handle,” which comes from the Latin word “massa” which means “mass or dough.” The Greek word for “massage” is “anatripsis” and the Latin word is “firctio.” However, the oldest known origin of the English word “massage” comes from the Biblical Hebrew word “me-sakj” which means “to anoint with oil.”
What we refer to as Massage Therapy today has in the past been merely referred to as Massage. However, the “therapy” portion of the Massage Therapy came into being only when the illegal prostitution and sexual services in the United States began advertising themselves and their wares as “massage.” Wanting to distinguish itself, the legitimate massage became Massage Therapy while the illicit continued to be called massage.