Just What Is Massage Therapy?

Recently, the practice of massage therapy has grown remarkably in the United States. It has become more widely accepted as a medical practice by doctors as well as 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).

The use of massage therapy has many benefits that even medicine or other methods of relief cannot offer. Historical evidence shows that massage was probably one of the earliest remedies for pain relief and for the restoration of the body.

The roots of massage can be traced back to ancient civilizations where many artifacts have been found to support the belief that prehistoric people massaged their muscles and perhaps even used some form of oil.

Early civilizations including ancient Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Hindu, Greek and Roman used some form of massage therapy treatment. With the decline of the Roman Empire, popularity of massage and health care in general also declined.

The Renaissance period brought back the interest in health and science, and massage once again became common practice.

In the following century, medical practitioners incorporated massage therapy into their healing treatments.

Early in the nineteenth century, Per Henrik Ling, a physiologist and fencing master from Sweden developed systems of movements that he found to be beneficial in improving physical conditions. Based on the science of physiology, Physiotherapy in Richmond BC his movements became known as Medical Gymnastics. Ling established the Royal Swedish Central Institute of Gymnastics in 1813. Ling’s Medical Gymnastics was taught in his new institute and became known as the Swedish Movements. Per Hendik Ling became known as the father of physical therapy.

Mathias Roth, an English physician who studied at Ling’s institute, established his own institute in England. Then Charles Fayette Taylor, a physician from New York, studied under Roth and brought the Swedish Movements to the United States.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, massage therapy once again began to decline. A reason for the decline was that many false practitioners, taking advantage of its popularity, gave poor treatment and hurt the reputation of all practitioners.

The advancement of new medicine also helped in the decline. “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).

In the 1960’s, the popularity of massage therapy once again revived. The popularity boom was caused by the increased cost of traditional Western medicines and increased awareness of physical and mental fitness.


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