History of Massage Therapy

Theraputic

The History of Massage as a modern phenomena or definable school of Western thought and practice can only be traced back to the 1800′s. Despite this, there are many references to rubbing with oils and unguents for health and medicinal purposes going back to around 1500 B.C. in China.

Many sources take this number back even further but at such a point, the historiography begins to get shaky and the evidence becomes isolated into fragmentary images depicted in stone or the odd text that managed to survive the ravages of time.

For instance, The Nei Ching or The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine which describes massage, can only be reliably dated to 1500 B.C. but many scholars attempt to push that date back further to 2500 B.C.

Chinese yellow emperor internal medicine classic

The historical debate about Chinese origins centers on the Chinese custom of attributing new works to popular figures such as a favorite Emperor as a gesture of respect. I am willing to leave such historical speculation to others and choose instead to concentrate on the most reliable facts and figures.

Ancient Egyptian carvings also depict massage and Julius Caesar was known to have massage administered for neuralgia.

history_of_reflexology

The ancient science of Ayurveda also advocates the use of massage and massage was common for participants in sporting events in ancient Greece. In ancient Rome, as in ancient Egypt, massage was offered to the public in bath houses and temple complexes as part and parcel of the process of relaxation and bathing.

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You may be surprised to learn that there is no written definition of massage from ancient times. Early physicians advocated friction and rubbing of the body and while they did describe how to do this rubbing and why, none wrote a definition of the discipline. Greek physician Galen gave us a description when he wrote Hygiene, stating that ‘the rubbing should be of many sorts with strokes and circuits of the hands, carrying them not only from above, down but from below up, but also subvertically, obliquely, transversely and subtransversely.” Despite there being no professional definition, what we do know, is that people have been rubbing one another for a variety of purposes almost as long as we have existed and that the practice shows no signs of dying out.

Massage is a healthy and vibrant expression of care and compassion for ourselves and our fellow human beings. In the Western world, massage was part of movement therapy and gymnastics before it was adopted by medical physicians. Ambrose Pare and Clement Joseph Tissot both wrote about massage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but it was not until Per Henrick Ling arrived on the scene that massage as we know it began to take shape around advances in medical knowledge. Lings work combined movement therapy and gymnastics with soft tissue manipulation and became known as Swedish massage. In fact, it isn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the word massage comes into its own as a medical term. It was John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Sanitarium who defined the traditional Swedish terms, effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement, as ‘massage.’ Despite this and many other early references to massage by Western medical doctors, massage is still regarded as a complimentary and alternative health practice or CAM by the AMA and not as a medical one. The standard-bearer for Professional Massage Therapy is the AMTA, which was formed in 1943 and is itself a partner with the American Medical Association. In 1992, the AMTA initialized the creation of the NCBTMB or National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, which is one of the primary organizations for certified massage therapists. A newcomer to the field is the FSMTB or Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. The FSMTB also offers a recognized certification for its adherents.

There are many types of massage and I could not name them all if I tried! The most common therapeutic forms are Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue and Neuromuscular Therapy to name only a few. There are more ‘exotic’ derivatives, such as Shiastu, Lomilomi and Reflexology as well as the more intensive varieties such as Rolfing, Trager and the Alexander technique which require separate and additional training. All fall under the broad rubric of massage.

etymology_header

The etymology of the word massage itself is fraught with political history. As it stands, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit and Semitic origins for the word massage are all touted by various vested interests with axes to grind about why their position is the correct one and how History itself, is validated by their point of view. As an example of the seeming lack of consensus have a look at the following examples of the etymology of the word massage, all from online and verifiable sources.

  • Merriam-Webster @ M-W.com: French, from masser to massage, from Arabic massa to stroke. First Known Use in English: circa 1860
  • Webster’s New World @ YourDictionary.com: French < masser, to massage < Arabic massa, to touch
  • American Heritage @ YourDictionary.com: French, from masser, to massage, from Arabic masaḥa, to stroke, anoint; see mšḥ in Semitic roots or massa, to touch; see mšš in Semitic roots.
  • Collins English @ Dictionary.com: 19thCentury: from French, from masser to rub; see mass [NOTE: at ‘’mass’’, ‘’mass’’ is stated to be from Latin ‘’massa’’]
  • Chambers Dictionary @ ChambersHarrap.co.uk:: 19th Century: French, from masser to massage, from Greek massein to knead. [question: directly modern Greek? or ancient Greek along unspecified path?]
  • Concise OED @ OxfordDictionaries.com: late 19th century: from French, from masser ‘knead, treat with massage’, probably from Portuguese amassar ‘knead’, from massa ‘dough’
  • Random House @ Dictionary.com: 1875–80; < F, equiv. to mass ( er ) to massage (< Ar massa to handle) + -age

I am not a linguist, but it seems that there is a great deal of work to be done when it comes to the History of Massage etymology, as there is no definitive agreement. But I am willing to believe that at least one of these dictionaries is correct. What interests my inner nerd about such issues are the implications of each position historically and how those positions relate to broader worldviews. I don’t have the linguistic training to discern the answer for myself, so I have to come to a conclusion by going the long way around. It comes from my contextual nature and the style of learning I picked up as a child who loved to read and discern big words from the contexts in which they were used. I know I may have lost many of you with this tangent and I apologize if so!

Suffice it to say, the history of massage is varied and vast and encompasses the history of almost every culture on the planet. My hope for Massage in the 21st century is that it will not be afraid to redefine itself as required to meet the needs of its practitioners and those who seek them out. Any practice that has survived for so long throughout and across history should not be relegated to the backwaters of Empire but should be embraced by the best and the brightest among us as offering something of tremendous value and lasting significance.

References

http://www.thebodyworker.com/history.htm

http://www.wischik.com/lu/massage/ljwhistory.html

http://www.recreationtherapy.com/history/rthistory1.htm

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/forums/viewthread/2346/

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=Massage&searchmode=none

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Chakra of the Week

I am going to be doing a weekly series beginning next week on each of the Chakras. There will be basic correspondences, aromatherapy tips, an exercise or yoga pose for balancing each chakra and a recipe to try at home begging next week on June 30th. Come back and check each week for the basic information and for how to incorporate some of these elements of Hindu philosophy and religion into your daily life or spiritual practice!  

Welcome Saxon-Hart! Spa and Wellness Pay it Forward Organization

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Saxon-Hart is an organization devoted to “paying it forward” in  the Spa and Wellness and Esthetics Industry based out of New York, NY. I took a few moments to ask some basic questions of their founder Heidi Burkhart.

You have partnered with ISPA. I noticed that Chef Pedro received a new suit as part of his makeover. How does this element of fashion relate to the Spa Industry in your view?

“Fashion is an expression of one’s self. When a man catches a glimpse of himself in a new, tailored suit, a sense of confidence is not only seen, it’s felt. A tailored suit is a symbol of power, of being “put together.” When Chef Pedro put on his new suit, his eyes “smiled” in seeing the inspirational man he has become, in spite of his many struggles. He does so much to ensure the healthy eating of those less fortunate. – serving nearly 600 homeless individuals a day, throughout our beautiful city. He aims to bring a high level of nutrition into their lives, while also sharing his profound love for the culinary trade. Additionally, Chef Pedro brings weekly soul searching messages to the congregations he speaks to in Brooklyn and at the NYC Rescue Mission. We were really captured by his story and wanted to give thanks to such a deserving, community minded man. While we did not work with the spa industry on Chef Pedro’s makeover, we were able to later treat his wife and daughter to Mother’s Day makeovers through our extended Saxon/Hart family. She was beyond excited about the makeover and posted several pictures of the transformation to Instagram, noting how the Saxon/Hart team is changing lives in what they do.”

Is Saxon-­-Hart strategically building bridges between Medical Aesthetics and Cosmetology centered Aesthetics by bringing these two disjointed elements of the Industry together common cause or is this an organic development for your project that is ongoing?

“Currently, we self-­-fund all of our makeovers. We are hoping that through additional funding in the near future, we will be able to grow, explore and work with more areas of the industry. We did work with the UNC Dermatology Center with our first makeover candidate, Lilli. I would love to work more with medical aesthetics and skin care practitioners. I personally went through a rhinoplasty procedure, which ultimately allowed me to be more confident. During that time, my doctor prescribed various massage and beauty treatments, which I loved. We hope to share that mindset with more of our candidates in the future.

So far your makeover projects have been for those with medical illness and disability. What social causes might your organization be willing to get involved with?

“We recently partnered with the NYC Rescue Mission for their Mother’s Day event, where we completed 70+ makeovers for homeless shelter moms. Aiming to bring awareness of the NYC Rescue Mission and the continued need to address homelessness .We were able to secure coverage of the day’s activities by several local TV news stations. The Saxon/Hart makeovers brought a fun twist to the day, making for a compelling goodwill story for local media. We were quite pleased with how the day turned out and all of the positive responses we received.”

Are you specifically interested in working with Americans or do you see a global future and application for Saxon-­-Heart’s mission?

“I am a “think big” person, so I would love if Saxon/Hart is eventually able to grow globally. At the same time, I also appreciate the mindset of “scaling back to scale up.” Our focus for now is on growing and expanding the Saxon/Hart giving forward mindset in the U.S. In due time, we hope to be able to share with the world, as well. As for further social causes, we are very open to working with the spa industry to find additional creative ways to showcase talent, while also inspiring others through the stories that we tell.”

Do you have any plans to partner with Professional organizations under the ISPA umbrella, such as Professional organizations for Massage Therapists like ABMP or NCBTMB?  What about Esthetics organizations? Particular schools or research institutions for these spa professions such as OMERI or the Miami based Touch Research Institute?

“No plans at the moment, but I do appreciate all your suggestions! Excited to meet with all in Atlanta and look forward to the possibilities for future partnerships/collaborations to come.” Saxon/Hart 584 Broadway Suite 608 New York New York 10012

Neuromuscular Therapy Continuing Education Course Outline

Neuromuscular Therapy Continuing Education Course Outline

I submitted my proposed outline for a Neuromuscular Therapy Course. I have lucked up and connected with a cont ed company that works on the small scale with short CEU requirements. It’s a good way to get introductory information for less than $20.00 without digging deep for a course that you may not be happy with. Right now, it would meet my needs and create new opportunities.

Be Well and Drink in the Sunshine – Life is Beautiful