Massage is one of the oldest therapies known to man. The earliest writings about massage come from China and date back to 3,000 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans used massage to preserve health and aid healing. Homer wrote about an oily medium used for massage in 1,000 BC. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine advised that an aromatic bath and fragrant massage should be had daily for the maintenance of health. Decadant as this sounds, it was based on Hippocrates research into the benefits of regular massage.
Today massage is used to relax the body and mind and relieve the stresses and strains of everyday life. Many modern health problems we suffer can be directly linked back to high stress levels. Touch stimulates the brain to produce endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators and pain suppressors, but massage is far more than just a treatment that makes us feel good. Studies show that massage enhances our immune function and lowers the level of our stress hormones.
Hippocrates is responsible for the medical code of ethics known as the 'Hippocratic Oath'. He also wrote about the effects of massage, stating that a physician should be versed in many things, but most assuredly in 'rubbing', for hard rubbing binds and much rubbing causes parts to waste. The actual word used by Hippocrates was anatripsis, which is Greek for 'friction' and is one of the main techniques used today in therapeutic massage.
Africa, the East & the Pacific
Massage has been used for healing throughout recorded history (and no doubt before that). There is a natural instinct to rub a sore spot or ache to make it better, and cultures all over the world have built upon this to develop varied styles of massage. Massage is so ancient that the derivation of the word is uncertain – it may have come from the ancient Greek word "massin" (to knead), or the Arabic "mass" or the Hebrew "mashesh" (to press).
The earliest written reference to massage is in the "Nei Ching", the Yellow Emperor's Book of Medicine (written about 2700 BC in china), which describes many massage techniques and their use. Indian texts on Ayurvedic Medicine from about 1800 BC also describe massage. There are many references in the Old Testament of the Bible to the practice of people being "anointed with oil", particularly after a long journey. From about 500 BC, there are references to massage in medical texts from Egypt, Persia and Japan.
In Eastern systems of massage, the emphasis is on the idea of balancing energy in the body. Acupressure massage developed in China, based on the acupuncture energy meridians and points. It is often used in combination with other traditional systems such as "Anmo" (pressing and rubbing) and "Tuina" (pushing and pulling). In Japan "Amma" massage of pressing, rubbing, wringing and stretches, was traditionally practised by blind practitioners. Shiatsu combines this with pressure techniques on acupuncture points. Thai massage also combines pressure, rubbing and stretches with techniques that work on the energy lines of the body.
In addition to its use by skilled professionals, massage has been used within families throughout Asia and Africa, particularly by mothers massaging babies, and head massage is an automatic part of a visit to the barber or hairdresser throughout much of North Africa and Asia. Massage also developed independently in other parts of the world. Many of the early European visitors to Pacific islands described the use of massage (such as the Hawaiian "Lomilomi"); Captain James Cook, on his third Pacific voyage in the late eighteenth century, had massage ("romee") in Tahiti to relieve sciatic pain.