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Massage Therapy, a combination of science and art, provides a relaxing experience by artistic hand strokes on the body to rejuvenate the mind and body and eliminate stress scientifically. The concept of massage is evident throughout history. The origin of the term ‘massage’ can be traced to four sources:

  • Greek - masso/massein, meaning to touch or to handle, also meaning to knead or to squeeze
  • Latin - massa, lifted from Greek masso and means the same
  • Arabic- mass'h or mass, means to press softly 
  • Sanskrit- makeh, also means to press softly

The practice of massage however has its roots in the ancient Chinese, Greek, Roman, Indian and the Egyptian era. A Chinese book from 2,700 B.C., The Yellow Emperor's Classic Book of Internal Medicine, recommends 'breathing exercises, massage of skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet' as the appropriate treatment for -complete paralysis, chills, and fever.' Massage one of the principal method of relieving pain for Greek and Roman physicians. Julius Caesar was apparently given a daily massage to treat neuralgia. Egyptian tomb paintings show people practicing massage.  Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, places great emphasis on massage and it remains widely practiced in India. 'The Physician Must Be Experienced In Many Things,' wrote Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, in the 5th century B. C., 'but assuredly in rubbing.. for rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.'

Massage was therefore used by early physicians to treat fatigue, illness and injury based on their basic understanding of how the body functions. But massage was not effectively used as a form of therapy in those days due to the lack of knowledge about blood circulation and the therapeutic results a massage can bring about.


The disintegration of the Greek and Roman civilization lead to a scarce practice of massage until the late 19th century that brought about the demand for massage as a therapy. This era also saw the formation of societies of therapists with an objective of promoting the science of massage, organizing training and safeguarding the interests of the public and profession. Some development from the 19th century have been:

  • Swedish Henrich Ling, developed a specific massage routine based on physiology popularly known to westerners as the Swedish massage.
  • In1899 Sir William Bennett re-introduced massage to the medical profession and opened a massage department at St George's Hospital in London. 
  • In 1990, The Incorporated Society of Masseuses was formed. During 1920 it merged with the Institute of Massage and Remedial Exercise. A Royal Charter was then granted and the society became known as the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gymnastics.
  • The main standard-setting organization for massage therapists, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), was established in 1943 and represents about 47,000 massage therapists in 30 countries.
  • In 1989, AMTA established the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA), which accredits massage therapy training programs.
  • In 1992, AMTA initiated the creation of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), where more than 40,000 massage therapists are now certified. NCBTMB is recognized by an interdisciplinary organization called the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Massage has therefore come a long way from its ancient humble origins. In the east, massage has continued to be seen as holistic and beneficial health care continuing through out the ages. In the western world, massage has faced more struggles to maintain its existence. Massage as a therapy was maligned when ‘massage parlors’ became linked with prostitution and people shied away from massage, fearing the 'touch' would be misinterpreted.

Massage has thus survived all odds on scientific and therapeutic grounds to bring about the healing image it has today. Today, the popularity of massage can be accredited to the highly stressful conditions of modern living and various harmful side effects of so-called medicines. People are now increasingly looking for holistic and natural healthcare methods for their health problems. It is in this context that Massage Therapy has emerged as one of the most popular forms of health activity of our times.