You might believe that massage therapy is a new fad that natural healers are promoting. That is partly right. Massage therapy’s medical benefits are definitely being touted these days, but they are not fresh. Massage therapy is part of a 5,000-year-old holistic system of therapeutic practises.
Massage therapy's beginnings and conventional approaches
Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire had massage therapy
Massage therapy was taken out of retirement by a Swedish doctor
Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish doctor, gymnast, and trainer, invented the Swedish Movement Remedy to help alleviate chronic pain in the early 1800s. It was the predecessor of what we now know as Swedish massage – a style that involves stroking, pulling, rubbing, and striking – and was as much medical gymnastics as massage therapy.
Although Ling’s approach included massage in his movements, Johan George Mezger, a 19th-century Dutchman, is credited with introducing techniques that are still used today:
Effleurage, which includes a series of long, gliding strokes from the extremities inward at varying pressure levels.
Petrissage is a rhythmic technique that includes kneading, skin rolling, raising, and a push-pull movement.
Tapemotement, a Swedish massage technique that involves a beating/tapping with the side of the palm, a cupped hand, or the fingertips.
Friction, a physically taxing technique that involves making deep, circular or crosswise motions with the thumbs, fingertips, palms, or elbows to reach deep tissue.
Massage therapy is becoming increasingly common in the United States.
Massage was practised by “rubbers” (women employed by surgeons to treat orthopaedic problems with manual rubbing and friction) as early as the 1700s. By the 1850s, however, “medical gymnasts” were doing the same thing using Ling’s movement and manipulation techniques. Anatomy, physiology, hygiene, pathology, and movement perceptions were all part of their extensive preparation, which they put into practise in hospitals and clinics.
The terms “masseur” and “masseuse” became common in the late 1800s. These therapists were Mezger-trained in soft tissue manipulation. At the time, hydrotherapy was used in combination with massage and could be considered the forerunner to today’s spa treatments such as body wraps and scrubs.
Surprisingly, the full-body massage became part of the “rest cure” for the melancholy known as neurasthenia, which was commonplace among late-nineteenth-century society ladies.