Many thanks to Wendy Rooke of Rooke Holistic Therapy for this wonderful guest post, teaching us about the history and benefits of massage… and that reminds me… I’m definitely long overdue one! 😉
Massage: Tried and Tested Over Millennia
Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, particularly the muscles, for the promotion and restoration of health. It has been practised for millennia and by many cultures.
As far back as 3000BC the Chinese were using massage to improve health, and the Japanese adapted Chinese techniques to develop shiatsu. You can learn more about shiatsu in my blog post about it here
The ancient Sanskrit book of wisdom The Vedas is based on the concept that health and happiness are achieved when body, mind and spirit are in balance. The three disciplines of ayurveda (body), yoga (mind) and tantra (spirit) aim to achieve that. Ayurveda is a form of alternative medicine that uses practices focusing on the body (rather than the mind or spirit) to prevent ill health and treat disease. Indian head massage (also known as champissage) is one of the traditional ayurvedic techniques originating in India. You can read more about Indian Head massage here
Massage was also practised in ancient Egypt (Cleopatra was partial to a massage with aromatic oils) and in Persia, in conjunction with traditional bathing customs.
By around 500 BC, the practice of massage had spread from the East to Europe.
The Greeks had a holistic approach to health and well being, nurturing mind and body through exercise, dance, bathing rituals and massage. They are well known for their sporting prowess, and massage was used before events to improve performance and after to aid recovery. Similarly Greek soldiers used massage after battle to alleviate fatigue and regain strength.
And of course the Romans are famed for their baths, which also included massage areas. Roman gladiators and soldiers received massage before battle to invigorate them and after battle to promote recovery.
The Turkish bath or Hammam is a variation on the Roman bath and became popular with Victorian travellers.
Modern massage techniques derive from those developed by the Swedish physiologist Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839). To find out more about Swedish massage, you can click here. In the late 19th and early 20th century massage was used in the medical setting as an effective therapeutic technique. During the First World War massage was used to rehabilitate injured soldiers. This led to the establishment of The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in 1943.
Today massage is used much as it has been over its long history: for relaxation, to promote sports performance and for the treatment of specific medical problems. As you can see above, massage has many potential benefits and these depend on the type of treatment, but to summarise they include:
- Relaxation of body and mind
- Promotion of a sense of well being
- Better quality of sleep
- Stimulation of circulation
- Improved skin condition
- Greater range of movement and flexibility
- Pain relief
- Injury prevention