Massage History in China and Japan
Medical texts outlining the benefits of massage are also found in ancient China and date back to 2500 BCE. The wealth of information gathered on Chinese massage therapy is the culmination of research and study from martial artists, TCM practitioners, and early physiologists. Buddhist and Taoist tradition also regards the human touch as sacred and massage therapy was a practice offered for relaxation.
Buddhist Monks from Japan returned from studying Buddhism in China with extensive knowledge of the secrets of massage therapy. Soon the Japanese were developing their own traditional massage practices called “anma” from which the modern massage style Shiatsu was born.
Shiatsu involves targeting specific pressure points along the body with the fingers, hands, thumbs, and sometimes elbows. The goal is to improve the flows of energy throughout the body to improve organ function and improve natural resistance to illness.
The history of massage is found around the entire globe including Greece and, from there, Rome. It was not just silk and spices that moved along the Silk Road from ancient China to the nations of the west. Philosophers and practitioners of healing practices soon brought their treatment options to Europe where they were warmly received. In addition to massage therapy, a wide range of essential oils from the spices of the east were introduced to European peoples in the early 8th century BCE.
Hippocrates of Kos, the famous 5th-century physician from Classical Greece, described the use of body heat and friction for treating a variety of injuries. He detailed instructions for techniques of “rubbing” the body to improve its capacity to regenerate and heal. The lifestyle plan that Hippocrates prescribed involved healthy food, good exercise, massage therapy, and music. Hippocrates also shared many key points with Ayurvedic medicine from a few millennia prior to his time.
Rome and Massage Therapy History
Among the considerable amount of culture absorbed from the Greeks by the Romans, massage therapy was passed along to the Roman Empire sometime in the first century BC. Claudius Galen, a famous Greek physician that served Rome in the first century CE, was a great proponent of Hippocrates’ guide for healthy living and suggested that massage therapy as an integral part of maintaining the body and promoting wellness.
Throughout the Roman Empire, bathhouses provided the comfort of grooming and good health in many major Roman cities. Here the very wealthy could be treated by educated physicians and therapists trained in massage practice techniques. Massages were typically applied with oils that improved the conditions of the skin.
Modern Massage Practices
In early 1800, a Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling wrote the Swedish Gymnastic Movement System, which showed how massage practice can be used to improve physiology and improve performance. The techniques he described include pressing, pinching, stroking and kneading the flesh to treat various issues and conditions.
Until the first half of the 1900s, massage therapy was regarded as a luxury treatment enjoyed only by the very wealthy. After the Second World War, massage practices were commonly used to treat soldiers suffering from shell-shock. This greatly increased the popularity of this form of treatment and led to another period where massage was associated with the sex traded and underwent some considerable unpopularity.