A Brief History of Massage Therapy
We all know how nice it can be to have our bodies touched and rubbed. A massage therapist is a person who has been trained to provide this type of pleasure in a concentrated and therapeutic way. Massage therapy can loosen up tight muscles in order to alleviate pain, to stimulate the immune system, and to reduce the effects of chronic stress. It is interesting to understand the origins of this practice so that we can see the theoretical foundations of the experiences that we enjoy in the modern day.
Nearly every ancient culture had a term for "massage" and a tradition of rubbing and kneading the flesh for therapeutic benefit. Throughout recorded history, people have experimented with and found effective means for healing the body through direct manipulation of its soft tissues, including not only the muscles and connective tissues but also the lymphatic vessels and the body's deep organ tissues.
Each culture has had its own distinctive tradition of massage therapy. The ancient Hebrews mentioned massage in the Bible in around 493 BC, talking about how even at that early date they were making use of regular massage as a way of maintaining a healthy and beautiful physical appearance. The famous Greek natural philosopher Hippocrates, after whom the Hippocratic oath of modern physicians is modeled, wrote about how important it is that a physician be experienced with the art of purposeful rubbing. The legendary "Yellow Emporer" of ancient China, who is considered the inventor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, recommended massage of the skin and deep tissues as an integral partof his developing medical philosophy.
You can see that the roots of all eastern and western systems of medicine developed around the inclusion of not only chemical treatments for illnesses, but also the use of massage to stimulate the body's own natural healing capacities. We now know that massage activates the lymphic system in order to help the body clear out waste and infectious material, and well as improving circulation which aids in delivering immune cells to the sites where they are needed.
Furthermore, it is interesting and important to note that the focus of ancient medicine was not strictly ameliorative in any of the major medical traditions that precursored today's medicinal systems. Instead, preventative medicine was a major part of the medical philosophies. It was almost universally recognized in ancient times that healthy-looking and healthy-feeling people are almost assuredly more healthy, and so the promotion of beauty and happiness were considered extremely important for a long and lustrous life. It is fortunate that modern medicine is beginning to rediscover this basic truth.