Concept, Origins and Development

The concept of a Massage is the manipulating of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques, to enhance function, aid in the healing process, decrease muscle reflex activity, inhibits motor-neuron excitability and promote relaxation and well-being. Massage involves working and acting on the body with pressure – structured, unstructured, stationary, or moving – tension, motion, or vibration, done manually or with mechanical aids. Target tissues may include muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, joints, or other connective tissue, as well as lymphatic vessels, or organs of the gastrointestinal system. Massage can be applied with the hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearm, and feet. There are over eighty different recognized massage modalities.

Archaeological evidence of massage has been found in many ancient civilizations in oriental Asia, India, Egypt, Europe (Rome, Greece) and elsewhere. Massage has developed continuously in China for over 5000 years and with the beginning of recorded history (720 BC), massage techniques (and how they should be used in the treatment) were specified and with it the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM. Over the next centuries massage types and techniques have spread over the Asian continent, around 500 BC, Traditional Thai massage, based on a combination of Indian and Chinese traditions of medicine such as acupressure, reflexology and yoga. There are biblical references in 493 BC which documents daily massage treatments with oil of myrrh (as a part of the beauty regimen of the wife of Xerxes). Long before, in 2330 BC, there is the famous Egypt painting ‘Tomb of Akmanthor’ which shows two men having work done on their hands and feet, presumably massage. In 460 BC, Hippocrates referred to massages in one of his work. It was not until 1779 AD when Chinese medical techniques used by Taoist priests were translated into French and published in Europe. In 1813, Henrik Ling developed what is called today ‘Swedish Massage system’ and its techniques are still known today by their French names (effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotment and vibration).

In modern times, in the 1930s and 1940s massage’s influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage’s influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes.

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