A Brief History of Massage. – maude Skip to content

A brief history of massage.

A Brief History of Massage.

Breathe into it.

It’s no secret that humans crave touch—forgoing it, we experience a phenomenon known as “skin hunger.” The feeling of another person’s hands on your skin (even in a platonic way) can make a dramatic impression on your mood. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that since the earliest civilizations, humans have embraced the healing power of touch.

Namely, through massage, which has been extolled for a number of its different medical benefits in various cultures through time. Of course, there are different kinds of massages one might experience (medicinal, at a spa or doctor’s office, and romantic or erotic, with a partner), but their varied benefits all show one thing to be true: We just want to feel connected. Here’s how massage has changed and varied through time.

Massage in ancient civilizations

Several ancient cultures used massage for their healing powers, but it’s most likely that the practice originated in China around 2700 BCE (though some accounts point towards Ancient India as the birthplace). Tui Na is a practice in Chinese Traditional Medicine and involves practitioners putting pressure on their specific points of the body to improve energy flow, specifically Qi

In Indian Ayurvedic massage, which is mentioned in texts dating from around the 6th century BCE, oils and aromatics take on a big role—not to set the mood, but to have a beneficial impact on the all-around wellbeing of the person receiving a massage.

These massage practices from both China and India spread around the ancient world to Egypt, where the related practice of reflexology was developed, Japan, where it would eventually lead to the development of shiatsu massage, and Greece and Rome, where massage was used to treat medical ailments.  

Massage’s modern revival

As Christianity spread in the west, touching—even just for health!—decreased. That is, until the early 1800s when a teacher named Pehr Henrik Ling developed Swedish massage, which would later be refined by Dutch physician Johann Georg Mezger, who established key massage strokes that are still used today. The practice shortly spread to America, and by 1943, the American Massage Therapy Association was established, formalizing the practice of massage therapy. 

Massage treatments today

At any given spa or clinic today, there’s a wide assortment of massages you can receive. Sure, a classic Swedish massage is always an option, but there’s also deep tissue massage (developed by a CanadianThai massageJapanese Amatsu, and so many more—all of which come with heaps of benefits.

And massages are given (and received!) outside of the spa or clinical setting come with a whole other slew of bonuses, beyond just making you feel good in the moment—you can improve your relationship satisfaction and improve your intimacy with a good, old-fashioned rub-down. Here’s exactly how to do it.

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