Massage Therapy

The practice of massage therapy is
rapidly growing in the United States. It has numerous
benefits to offer and is becoming more widely accepted as
a medical practice by doctors and the general public.
Massage is defined as: …the systematic manual or
mechanical manipulations of the soft tissues of the body by
such movements as rubbing, kneading, pressing, rolling,
slapping, and tapping, for therapeutic purposes such as
promoting circulation of the blood and lymph, relaxation of
muscles, relief from pain, restoration of metabolic balance,
and other benefits both physical and mental (Beck 3).
There is much historical evidence to indicate that massage
is one of the earliest remedies for pain relief and for the
restoration of a healthy body. It is said to be the most
natural and instinctive means of relieving pain and
discomfort. The roots of massage can be traced back to
ancient civilizations. Many artifacts have been found to
support the belief that prehistoric people massaged their
muscles and even used some form of rubbing oils on their
bodies. According to research, some form of massage was
practiced in almost all early civilizations. Ancient Chinese,
Japanese, India, Hindu, Greek, and Roman civilizations
used some form of massage as a medical treatment. In
many of these civilizations a special person, such as a
healer, doctor, or spiritual leader, was selected to
administer massage treatments. With the decline of the
Roman Empire in 180 A.D. came a decline in the
popularity of massage and health care in general. There
was little history of health practices recorded during the
Middle Ages (476-1450). The Renaissance period
(1450-1600) revived an interest in health and science.
Once again, people became interested in the improvement
of physical health and by the second half of the fifth
century, massage was a common practice. By the sixteenth
century, medical practitioners began to incorporate
massage into their healing treatments. Massage has been a
major part of medicine for at least five thousand years and
important in Western medical traditions for at least three
thousands years. In the early part of the nineteenth century,
Per Henrik Ling, a physiologist and fencing master, from
Smaaland, Sweden, developed and systemized movements
that he found to be beneficial in improving physical
conditions. His system of movements, based on the science
of physiology, became known as Medical Gymnastics. In
1813, Ling established the Royal Swedish Central Institute
of Gymnastics, which was financed by the Swedish
government. From this institute Ling and his students were
able to educate people about his Medical Gymnastics
movements, which became known as the Swedish
Movements. By 1851, there were thirty-eight institutions
for Swedish Movement in Europe. Today, Per Henrik Ling
is known as the father of physical therapy. Mathias Roth
was an English physician who had studied at one of Ling’s
institutes. In 1858, he published the first book in English on
Swedish Movements and then established the first institute
in England. Charles Fayette Taylor, a New York physician,
studied, under Roth, and in 1858, Taylor introduced the
Swedish Movements to the United States. The beginning of
the twentieth century brought with it a decline in the use of
massage. There were several possible reasons for this
decline. One reason was that there were too many false
practitioners who gave poor care and hurt the reputation of
all massage practitioners. A second reason for the decline
in the popularity of massage therapy was the advancement
made in medicine. “Technical and intellectual advances
developed new treatment strategies that were based more
on pharmacology and surgical procedures. The old ideas of
treating disease through diet, exercise, and bathing gave
way to the more sophisticated practices of modern
medicine.” (Beck 13). Beginning around 1960, another
massage renaissance took place in the United States and
continues to this day. This popularity boom was due in part
to the increased cost of traditional medicine and in part to
an increased awareness of physical and mental fitness.
Since the 1960s massage therapy has gained popularity
and acceptance. In 1992, the first National Certification for
Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork exam was given,
making recognition for a massage therapist official.
Massage therapy offers numerous benefits to the human
body. Renslow Sherer, M.D., states, "Massage therapy
has clearly been shown to me to be very beneficial,
particularly in areas where conventional medicine has not
been as successful, including chronic arthritis,
musculoskelatal syndromes and chronic headache, among
others” (Enhancing Your Health…). Massage is a natural
and instinctive way of relieving minor aches and pains,
nervous tension and fatigue. It has direct benefits such as
increased circulation, stretching of muscle tissue, and
loosening of scar tissue, as well as indirect effects such as
reduced blood pressure, and the general relaxation of
muscles. Massage therapy offers benefits in four major
ways: the muscular system, the